Physics Major, Garrett Thornton named Niblack Research Scholar

Congratulations to Physics Major, Garrett Thornton, on winning the Niblack Research Scholarship.  

OSU Physics major Garrett Thornton was awarded a Niblack scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year. Garrett will be working with Dr. Eric Benton and his graduate student, Mr. Tristen Lee, in the OSU Radiation Physics Laboratory developing a compact and affordable ionizing radiation detector. Utilizing circuitry developed around a silicon PIN photodiode, the goal of the project is to create a battery-powered, compact dosimeter which hopefully one day will be carried by pilots, flight attendants and passengers to measure their exposure to cosmic radiation during flights aboard commercial, business and military aircraft.

Cosmic rays consist of high energy, ionized particles accelerated by energetic events like supernovae, and they generate particle cascades when interacting with our atmosphere. These extensive air showers include muons, neutrons, and other subatomic particles, and they progressively dissipate energy as they penetrate deeper into the atmosphere. Accordingly, the radiation environment increases in intensity the higher one progresses upward from sea level, and beyond the atmosphere it is regulated only by the magnetosphere and solar wind.

Garrett will first prototype design, construction, and testing of the dosimeter based on existing detectors and electronics. He will then simplify and miniaturize the prototypes where necessary, all the while executing tests and calibrations of the detection systems with in-lab ionizing radiation sources. Following the establishment of a viable, compact, and cost-effective design, Garrett and his colleagues in the lab could potentially pursue deployment of the photodiode sensors on an array of platforms. This may include aircraft, UAVs and weather balloons for high altitude radiological observations.