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Michael Wood, PhD, professor of physics and chair of the Department of Quantitative Sciences, Alexis Grassl, a junior physics and biochemistry double major, and Aaron Szczepankiewicz, a junior chemistry major, recently visited Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA for an experiment in neutron efficiency.

From March 16-20, Wood and the students collaborated with their Occidental colleagues, Drs. Daniel Snowden-Ifft and Jean-Luc Gaurveu, to test the efficiency of a gas electron multiplier (GEM).  The GEM detectors were developed in the late 1990s at CERN, the world’s largest particle collider located near Geneva, Switzerland, as compact particle tracking devices.

The GEM is filled with a mixture of Argon and CO2.  When a particle ionizes the gas, the free electrons create an avalanche of more electrons that are picked up by an array of sensing wires.  A GEM is very good at detecting electrically-charged particles like electrons and protons.

The Canisius and Occidental team are investigating how well the detector works at identifying neutrons.  This trip was part of a project funded by a grant from the Department of Energy to find novel neutron detectors.

Submitted by: Dr. Michael Wood, physics professor and chair, Department of Quantitative Sciences