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Research Endeavors of CAZ-RAD Group

utah reactor.jpg

The CAZ-RAD group consists of three laboratories - East Lab: radiation detection, electronics, and technology development; West Lab: radiation and irradiated sample testing within the University of Utah Reactor lab space; and the Computational 'Lab': which performs simulations and modeling. East and West Labs are capable of using radioactive materials, with the West Lab able to handle irradiated/activated materials. Facility support includes the UU Nanofab Labs and the UU TRIGA Reactor (UUTR). Additionally, plans are in place to build a neutron source irradiation facility. The East Lab is equipped with high quality oscilloscopes, detector material storage, power supplies, ADCs, signal analysis software packages, and SiPM systems. The West Lab is equipped with UUTR and radioactive source access, probe-station testing and sample analysis, and radiation counting facilities.


Pre-WWII Steel Shielding Cave in-place (Mar. 2022): This effort took ~3 years and much work by UU Moving/Facilities. It involves a ~10,000 lbs shielding cave moved into our research facility. This cave can provide very low background environments, ultimate shielding for ionizing radiation sources and emitters, and is a rare commodity. It is constructed of heavy pre-WWII U.S. battleship steel. In-terms of shielding, it is free of radioactive (post-weapon testing fallout) inclusions. Graduate student Jesse Snow led the final organization and placing of this structure.


Research Topics

Radiation Effects Testing for Devices and Microelectronics

The significance of this work is to develop methodologies for radiation hardness testing of microelectronics. This methodology includes understanding of device physics and irradiation sources, as well as utilization of irradiation facilities and dosimetry of irradiated microelectronics. The methodology necessarily incorporates design of testing procedures, development of experimental setups including microelectronic measurements, and performing statistical analysis of device radiation effects data. It also uses multiple radiation sources on the University of Utah campus. Simulations and modeling are important to understand the induced radiation effects at the component level.

Cazalas group (with PI: Dr. Cazalas) was recently awarded $500k (to University of Utah) STTR Phase II from DoD with InnoSys Inc. as industry partner. Previously, $80k was awarded in Phase I work, which was successfully completed.

Primary Researcher(s): Codey Olson, Ph.D. Student (graduated) and Jesse Snow, Ph.D. Student.

This project and others like it are on-going.

Perovskite Materials for Radiation Detection


Our research group has been involved with a number of researchers in the development and testing of Perovskite materials for application in radiation detection. Our aim is to provide experimental, analytical, and computational support to efforts that use this material, or we take the lead in opportunities that emphasize radiation detection. 

Recent efforts have focused on graphene field effect transistors, dosimetry, x-ray imaging, particle detection, and ionizing radiation spectroscopy. To support these activities, our lab is equipped with a large assortment of advanced signal processing and readout electronics, variety of radiation sources (including neutrons), dry/vacuum sample storage, simulation/modeling capability, and our probe station (allowed for radioactive samples and devices or irradiation use).

Cazalas group (with Co-PI: Dr. Cazalas) was recently awarded $40k Phase I by NIH SBIR with PI: Kendon Shirley (Kairos Detectors LLC.). This work aims to fabricate, test, and quantify graphene on perovskite as a pixelated array for x-ray imaging and detection.

Primary Researcher(s): Jesse Snow, Ph.D. Student.

This project has been successfully completed.

Upgrade of UU TRIGA Reactor Cooling System

Upgrade of UU TRIGA Reactor Cooling System

reactor upgrade cooling.PNG

The University of Utah's TRIGA Reactor has been awarded a ~$400K grant (led by Dr. Cazalas) to upgrade its cooling system from passive to active flow to allow for 1 MW of cooling (coupled via tertiary loop to ultimate heatsink). This upgrade, made possible by the DOE-NEUP Grant, will be carried out by UU OPP and designated subcontractors, under reporting supervision of Dr. Cazalas.  Construction has started and is aimed to be completed by Dec. 2021.

With this upgrade, reactor run time can be extended to accommodate teaching and research load. Importantly, the upgrade allows for the future uprate in power of the reactor to a maximum of 1 MW. This uprate would provide substantial support toward isotope production, materials irradiation, neutron imaging, forensics studies, and detector testing. Importantly, the upgrade will link into the previous upgrade of the reactor control console for monitoring of water temperature and flow.

This project has been successfully completed.

Neutron Spectrometer and Imager


The objective of this proposed project is to develop a radiation detector that is capable of neutron and gamma-ray spectroscopy and imaging. The detection system will be capable of discriminating between gamma and neutron interactions via pulse shape discrimination in mixed gamma-ray/neutron fields. The system would provide these capabilities and would be expected to add substantial impact in source energy and particle type measurement as well as advancing the field of nuclear science and radiation detection. We expect that customers of this system would include those anticipating characterization and feedback of reactor beam-lines, accelerators, and neutron generators. The system is designed for scientific, national security, and dosimetry applications.

Primary Researcher(s): Teancum Quist, Ph.D. Student (graduated).

Project is on-going.

Development of a Neutron Irradiation Facility


Codey Olson (at saw) and Will Bates (safety overwatch) cutting borated-poly for the neutron shield.


Neutron (left) and gamma-ray (right) exit port particle streaming simulation

The objective of this successful project is to develop a neutron irradiation facility within the TRIGA Research Reactor area at the University of Utah. The facility utilizes an existing  PuBe neutron source. The facility has been designed for safe usage experiments with "beam-port" that maximizes fast neutron emission at a near perpendicular exit angle while minimizing in-beam gamma-rays. Beam-port fittings can be swapped in to tune the exiting neutrons to the energy of interest. The facility was designed with radiation safety/shielding in mind with a special simulation designed and experimentally tested shield enclosure.


This source came online in Summer 2021 and is now operational.

Primary Researcher(s): Codey Olson, Ph.D. Student (graduated). William Bates, M.S. Student (graduated).


This project has been successfully completed.  

Flash Radiotherapy Dosimetry

The area of Flash Radiotherapy holds great promise for enhanced radiation-based treatment of cancerous tumors. We are working with UU-Radiation Oncology Medical Physics Department to develop a much needed tool to assess real-time dose during these short but very high dose rate therapies. The goal is to provide a measure of safety during these procedures as well as to measure delivered radiation dose to the patient. We plan to and are in the process of simulating, building, and testing a fast-timing, dE/dx dosimeter for this purpose. This novel instrument is planned to be characterized in the newly commissioned proton beam therapy facility on the UU-Health campus.

Primary Researchers(s): Codey Olson, Ph.D. (graduated).

Project is on-going.

Detector Development

We explore the continued implementation of new materials and technologies in the development of more advanced radiation detection architectures. This includes investigation of SiPMs, fiber optics, quantum dots, and graphene or other 2-D materials. This research examines potential detector designs for various applications including space-based, reactors, nuclear security and non-proliferation, and science.

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