BAE moves into radiation detection

Published 1 December 2008

Natural diamonds have been used for UV detection since the 1920s, but high purity single crystal diamond with excellent bulk uniformity is a new development, opening new markets for the technology

BAE Systems will take a 50 percent holding in Poole, Dorset, U.K.-based Diamond Detectors, a subsidiary company set up by Element Six to manufacture diamond detectors and sensors for radiation monitoring applications. Diamond Detectors was formed in 2007 with the aim of incorporating synthetic diamond made by chemical vapor deposition developed by Element Six into novel detectors for a range of markets.

It is one of the first companies to be included in the growing investment portfolio of Element Six’s venture capital fund, E6 Ventures. The Engineer reports that the company is focusing on the development of customized detectors and will initially target four main markets: high energy physics, nuclear monitoring, radiotherapy dosimetry, and deep-UV detection. Using diamond as a detector is not a new idea. As early as the 1920s, highly selected natural diamonds were being used for UV detectors. The recent commercial availability of high purity single crystal diamond with excellent bulk uniformity is a new development, though, and it opens up new potential markets for novel detectors in a wide range of industries. It also enables designers to overcome the inherent problems associated with the selection of appropriate natural diamonds in existing detector applications where diamond is used.

Diamond Detectors offers a range of fully packaged polycrystalline and single crystal detectors and plates as well as custom design services. Initial products under development cover applications in high energy physics research such as the Large Hadron Colider (LHC) project at CERN, the new Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) under development at GSI in Germany, as well as the Diamond Light Source, the largest U.K.-funded scientific facility to be built for more than thirty years. Industrial applications include detectors for use in medical dosimetry, data logging in oil well exploration, UV applications such as photolithography, and cleaning for semiconductor manufacturing.

Kevin Oliver, general manager of Diamond Detectors, said: “Diamond Detectors is already working closely with a number of industrial partners on the future commercialization of these potential products.”