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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Glowing Crystals

Mariya Zhuravleva, Assistant ProfessorCollege of Engineering - Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Crystals are not only aesthetically pleasing materials, such as the gemstones, used in jewelry, but are also used in many technical applications. Some crystals, called scintillators, visibly glow with bright colors when exposed to radiation. Scintillator crystals can be used to record X-ray images similar to the manner in which photographic film can be used to record light images. Crystalline scintillators with three dimensional patterns of perfectly ordered atoms are used to produce high resolution images of cancer and Alzheimer's disease and to reveal the presence of hidden radioactive materials being illegally transported across borders. A team of students, researchers and faculty at the Scintillation Materials Research Center discovers new scintillator crystals and develops new technologies to manufacture them. The crystals are grown by slowly cooling a molten substance in a specially designed furnace. The resulting crystals are the key components in the fabrication of modern radiation sensing devices.​

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