Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Plasma Physics Lab Device Has Second Life

This is a rather neat story of how a device that was invented for a specific purpose finds a life outside of that use and become something quite useful. In this case, it is a radiation detection device that was originally intended to detect and measure all the radioactive substance inside the walls of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory's tokamak.

The "Miniature Integrated Nuclear Detection System" (MINDS) was designed by a group led by Charles Gentile, one of the lab's leading experts in radioactive materials.

"The development of MINDS, from a fusion energy research tool into a potentially important addition to the nation's homeland security arsenal, illustrates an outstanding example of technology transfer from the laboratory to the marketplace," said Lewis Meixler, PPPL's head of technology transfer and applications research. "It is also a tribute to Charles Gentile and his dedicated team, whose tenaciousness in overcoming all obstacles and whose continuous striving to improve system performance made the MINDS possible.

Of course, this is not an uncommon example in science research. The World Wide Web was invented at CERN as a means for physicists to look at data and results quickly. In fact, many advanced computing technology evolves out of the need for high-speed and high-volume data distribution in science. These are just a minuscule example of how devices and applications that were invented specifically for scientific needs trickle down to a more popular and useful application elsewhere.


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