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Silicon Valley startup announces new nuclear detection technology

Mountain View, CA-based Rhombus Power Inc.'s first product, Mercury, is a networked, scalable, digital, highly accurate, easy to use neutron detector. Mercury can be readily used by homeland security, defense, and intelligence communities to detect contraband nuclear weapons and materials, the company says. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has independently verified that Mercury meets ANSI standards.

Mercury is being demonstrated in Gaithersburg, MD on May 29th at the NIST to a number of U.S. government agencies. An earlier prototype of Mercury was successfully demonstrated in December 2013 at UC-Berkeley to scientists and U.S. government agencies.

President Obama and his national security team continue to rate nuclear terrorism as a high priority threat to our homeland. At the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, in response to a question about his concerns over deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations, he said, "I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan."

According to Rhombus CEO and Founder Dr. Anshuman Roy, "Currently deployed nuclear detectors are unreliable because they are inaccurate and require frequent calibration. And the world has run out of Helium-3 that served as the workhorse neutron sensing material for decades."

To address this national security need, Dr. Roy left a research position at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012 to start Rhombus Power. Dr. Roy and his Rhombus team joined the NASA Research Park (NRP) at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. According to Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Alan Heeger, "Rhombus' neutron detector (Mercury) will make America safe from terrorist movement of fissionable materials. It is 10 times more accurate than available solutions and it is free of false positives that plague existing technologies -- it is a breakthrough innovation."

Rhombus has provided detectors to the nuclear science departments at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Jose State University for characterization. According to Dr. Kai Vetter, professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley, "Mercury is an on/off detector for neutrons that does not require calibration and is free of false alarms." Dr. Gilles Muller, director of nuclear science at San José State University commented, "We are delighted to facilitate the characterization experiments of Mercury at our Nuclear Science facility."

Mercury also has scientific applications in digital neutron imaging for drug discovery and materials science as well as commercial applications in oil & gas, lumber and agriculture markets. Dr. Roy is very excited about the broad applicability of this breakthrough technology that he predicts will require major expansion of his company and number of employees.

NASA Research Park Director Michael Marlaire noted, "We are so proud that yet another of the NRP startup companies has developed a platform with so many potential benefits to the American people." Over the years, NRP has successfully incubated businesses that started with only intellectual property and a plan, and now employ thousands in Silicon Valley, including Bloom Energy, AlterG, Apprion, and Benetech. 

 

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