Certain insulating solids can store a fraction of the absorbed energy when irradiated by ionizing radiation. The stored
energy can be released subsequently by heating or optical stimulation. As a result, light may be emitted through
Thermoluminescence (TL) or Optically-Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) and electrons may be emitted through
Thermally-Stimulated Electron Emission (TSEE) or Optically-Stimulated Electron Emission (OSEE).
TL and OSL are widely used in current radiation dosimetry systems. However, despite considerable research effort
during the early 1970s, SEE was not commonly adopted for dosimetry applications. One of the main reasons is that SEE
is a surface phenomenon, while luminescence is a bulk phenomenon, making SEE more susceptible to humidity,
absorption of gases, minor physical defects and handling, both before and after irradiation. Nevertheless, it has been
recognized that SEE may be useful for homeland security applications in nuclear forensics, where dose accuracy is not
the primary performance metric.
In this research, we are investigating the use of SEE for nuclear forensic applications. Many common materials, both
natural and man-made, exhibit the phenomenon, providing an opportunity to use the environment itself as an in-situ
radiation detector. We have designed and constructed a unique prototype reader for conducting SEE measurements. We
have demonstrated that the SEE measurements from a variety of materials are quantitatively reproducible and correlated
to radiation exposure. Due to the broad applicability of SEE, significant additional studies are warranted to optimize this
novel technique for nuclear forensic and other applications.