Until now, detector crystals have been made out of cadmium telluride, but it involves a very complicated and expensive production process, explains the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in a statement. A research team at Empa and the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich has now succeeded in producing detectors in a far more affordable manner by manufacturing single crystals from a different family of semiconductors. These new detector crystals cost only a few Swiss francs per crystal.
Their discovery could slash the price of many radio detectors, writes Empa. Possible applications of the new crystals include diagnosing metabolic problems in the brain. Previously, radioactive tracer substances were given to patients to render the brain activity visible in magnetic resonance imagery. But the new crystal merely needs to be held in front of the tracer substance to take the readings, simplifying the diagnoses process for dopamine receptor disorders such as Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and hyperactivity.
Another possible application could be a miniature Geiger counter that can be connected to smartphones. It would enable people in contaminated areas to test their food for radioactivity.