Patent awarded to Hayes and DeVanzo

Michael DeVanzo (MNE ‘18) and Dr. Robert Hayes were awarded a 2024 U.S. Patent (#11887743) for their work on “Metal oxide impregnated conformal coatings for ionizing radiation shielding”.  The technology will facilitate the use of some commercial off-the-shelf electronics in place of current radiation hardened components to survive the harsh radiation fields in space. It is particularly well suited for geostationary orbits which are dominated by electron fields from the solar wind but will improve the shielding to weight ratio in other orbits as well. Radiation hardened components can be very expensive and supply chains can be disrupted or simply very limited in throughput. By replacing traditional aluminum hulls with this novel shielding material, some missions can use standard components initially designed for only terrestrial deployment giving high reliability of the supply chain and reducing costs. 

Electronic devices, such as semiconductor devices, are sensitive to ionizing radiation, such as nuclear particle radiation and photonic radiation. When electronic devices are deployed in environments with high concentrations of ionizing radiation, such as nuclear power generation facilities and spacecraft, it is desirable to shield the electronic components from the ionizing radiation. While using single element metallic shields, such as lead shields, these are effective at blocking ionizing radiation. Metallic shields are expensive in terms of mass penalty, potential toxicity and manufacturing cost and may change circuitry capacitive reactance. Accordingly, there exists a need for improved methods for providing ionizing radiation shielding for electronic devices that avoids some of these difficulties.

Conformal coatings provide environmental protection for sensitive military electronics. Preliminary MCNPTM modeling of metal oxide impregnated acrylic conformal coatings indicates an effective shield for gammas below 10 keV and a reduction in neutron displacement damage to Si-based electronics across the Watt spectrum. This work provides data which can allow an optimal overall shielding worth per total weight to eventually be evaluated.

DeVanzo continues his work with Lockheed Martin Space. Hayes’ research areas span nuclear nonproliferation including nuclear assay and retrospective dosimetry. Other research areas include health physics, nuclear crtiticality safety, burnup, shielding, nuclear waste disposal and novel detection methods, particularly when they relate back to nonproliferation. 

Pictured above, left to right, is the current team working on the technology – Partick Hartwell, Dr. Robert Hayes, and Samuel Hanson. Patrick and Samuel are Hayes’ doctoral students.

Related journal article can be found in Radiation Physics and Chemistry, volume 177, June 2020.