Glen Allen, VA: Industry analyst firm NanoMarkets today announced the launch of its newest report of the radiation detection materials market.  The report titled “Radiation Detection Materials Markets 2013” predicts that scintillation (crystalline and thin-film), semiconductor, and non-3He neutron detector materials revenues will grow from $2.3 billion (USD) this year to $3.7 billion in 2020.  The firm states that medical imaging will comprise the largest market for these materials followed by domestic and military and nuclear and scientific related applications.

Additional details about this report are available on the firm’s website at .

NanoMarkets will be issuing a related report titled, “Markets for Radiation Detection Equipment” later in May.  Additional details about that report are available at here: .

The reports can be purchased as a set or individually.

About the report:

This report identifies the latest opportunities for radiation detection materials and especially those that have emerged since NanoMarkets groundbreaking report in 2011.  A particular focus of this year’s report is how the opportunities for radiation materials are likely to change in the light of latest developments in end user sectors.  In each of these applications – and in others – this report examines which materials can best capitalize on the available opportunities, now and in the future.

Scintillation (crystalline and thin-film), semiconductor, and non-3He neutron radiation detection materials are covered in this report in which we show how improving costs and performance is helping to increase the addressable markets for these materials.   As with all NanoMarkets reports, the new analysis of the radiation detection materials markets contains a granular eight year forecast, broken down by application (domestic security, medical imaging, military, nuclear power, industrial and geophysical) and type of material.  These forecasts are provided in terms of both revenues ($ millions) and volume (cubic centimeters sold).   Over 40 forecast tables are included in the report.

Companies mentioned in the report include; Acrorad, Alpha Spectra, BAE Systems, Canberra, Dynasil, GE, Horiba, HQTec, Northrop Grumman, Omega Piezo, Ortec, Phillips, Redlen Technologies, Saint Gobain, Siemens, Zecotek.

From the report:

  • In the medical field, an aging population in North America, Europe, and Japan has created one source of increased demand for radiological imaging equipment, and thus demand for scintillating radiation detection crystals.  In addition, economically emerging nations (BRIC nations and other similar economies) are creating demand for radiological imaging equipment in markets where there was previously little or no penetration of these advanced imaging techniques.
  • Scintillation materials for medical imaging will slowly transition away from some of the oxides, such as BGO, to some of the silicates and LaBr3 if crystal growth techniques can help bring prices down to justify materials changes for improved performance.
  • Thin-film scintillation materials for digital x-ray imaging represent a major area of growth over the next eight years.  The transition from traditional film and phosphor plates is happening currently, and will accelerate as the cost of digital x-ray panel detectors based on CsI become the norm in the medical field.
  • Cost reduction in radiation detection materials will come through economies of scale as larger improved factories come online, and performance will be improved through introduction of new materials with improved fundamental attributes.
  • Domestic security applications represent a steady growth sector for the foreseeable future.  Protection against radiological threats has been defined as a fundamental function of the domestic security apparatus in the US and most other nations that could be a target of radiological terrorism.   Once such funding becomes ingrained in the bureaucracy of state spending, while events like the current US sequester may temporarily threaten such spending, ultimately the threats are empty and the funding grows steadily.
  • Domestic security demand for improved resolution detectors for portals is still a priority.  Replacement of PVT-based detectors with NaI in many cases is ongoing, but radiation detection materials for primary screening with improved isotope identification capability are needed.  CLYC has just been introduced, but could be a candidate.  CZT has the resolution necessary, but currently the cost is too high.
  • 3He gas is currently the detector of choice for slow neutron detection of nuclear materials.  The demand for 3He is, however, three times current production.  3He currently is harvested from the decay of tritium in nuclear weapons and is nonrenewable, with the available weapons material declining due to disarmament requirements. As a result, the current crisis will only intensify.
  • 3He is therefore no longer approved for portal use, and the industry has transitioned to 10B-lined tubes.  6Li has not been adopted significantly for portals due to its poor sensitivity in the presence of significant gamma radiation, but work continues to improve 6Li for such applications.
  • Markets for nuclear power will likely experience slow growth, but may begin to rebound even in Japan as the cost of non-nuclear alternatives is felt.  One opportunity for radiation detection near nuclear plants will be in the consumer market for dosimeters.  It won’t be a mass market, but with new low-priced dosimeters available, there will be some demand.
  • Military markets will have significant demand for new small electronic dosimeters that can be wirelessly linked to provide real-time information to commanders.  The ability to more clearly understand the exposure of troops will provide better information to the command regarding the operational readiness of forces.
  • Room temperature isotope detection equipment based on CZT will also likely see a significant uptick in demand in military applications.  Eliminating the cooling requirement needed with current HPGe detectors for field operations will be a welcome improvement for military mobile isotope detection equipment.   Finally, there will be steady demand for more radiation detection monitoring near bases worldwide.
  • CZT represents a significant possibility for wide adoption in the isotope detection role, because it does not require cooling like HPGe. However, many years of work have gone into the crystal growth engineering of CZT, and while much improved, large single crystals like those grown in the semiconductor industry for silicon remain elusive.  If costs can be brought down, the future is bright; if not, CZT may be limited to applications where its high cost can be absorbed.
  • For materials suppliers, providing precursors for multiple paths of research at both lower purity and ultra-high purity will provide customers with the needed materials to quickly conduct research into new materials.  In addition, subcontracting to key suppliers of more exotic materials will be helpful. Finally, offering equipment to facilitate automation of materials discovery could be a differentiating factor between suppliers.
  • NaI(Tl) has been the dominant radiation detection material since its introduction 50 years ago due to a combination of low cost and good performance for most radiation detection applications.  While higher-performance materials will eat into its market share, NaI(Tl) will remain the dominant scintillating radiation detection material for the foreseeable future.
  • While NaI(Tl) has the drawbacks of being hygroscopic, and in general pretty brittle and shock sensitive, the low cost and adequate sensitivity for most general applications supersedes the drawbacks. In addition, from a resolution perspective NaI again is good for most applications, but does not have the resolution necessary for demanding isotope identification tasks.
  • The key materials opportunity for scintillation detections materials is to improve on the drawbacks of NaI (hygroscopic, brittle, as good or better resolution) without increasing the cost to the point where the materials becomes economically unfeasible.
  • Lanthanum bromide is one new scintillation radiation detection material that possesses a significant improvement in resolution compared to NaI(Tl), but has been held back by crystal growth issues and the fact that one company holds the intellectual property for the crystals.  Currently, the price is significantly higher than NaI, and it remains to be seen if there is a significant market at this price point.
  • Cesium iodide in crystalline form represents a good alternative to NaI(Tl) for low energy applications where the hermetic seal of NaI(Tl) detectors attenuates low energy signals., while cesium iodide thin films represent one of the biggest market opportunities for scintillating materials.
  • The x-ray imaging market is currently undergoing a major transition from traditional film and phosphor plates to digital imaging using thin film scintillators combined with amorphous silicon as the detector. Prices for thin-film detectors have fallen in half over the past 5 years, and if they can stay on or accelerate that cost reduction curve, the market opportunities are significant.
  • Strontium Iodide represents an intriguing new entrant into the scintillating materials area.  Developed at LLNL and LBL, it has improved resolution compared to NaI(Tl) and should be able to function in an isotope detection role, is chemically and physically robust, has a good      light yield, and seems to be quite easy to grow based on early laboratory experience.  It is a very new material that has not been introduced to the market yet;  however, if the data from the government labs can transition from the lab to volume production, it is a material to watch.
  • BGO and other oxide scintillating materials have been the work horse materials for PET and SPECT radiological imaging applications.  While they will not be superseded in the near term, they will likely slowly see market share fall off as new scintillators for radiological imaging enter the market.
  • Cerium doped Cs2LiYCl6 (CLYC) is one of the most exciting new scintillation materials to become commercially available in the past year.  CLYC as a higher resolution than NaI, can be made by standard crystal growth techniques, and can be used for both neutron and gamma ray detection.
  • Plastic and organic scintillators will still have a place in the market where very large volume detectors with little discrimination ability are useful.  They will still be used for cargo screening in very cost-sensitive applications, but will fade where discrimination of radiation type is necessary.  There may be some improvement in resolution using some of the metal loading techniques that are now being implemented.
  • Nanocrystalline and advanced composites are mostly still in the exploratory phase, but the quantum confinement that these synthetic techniques allow can greatly modify the optical and electronic band structures of materials and will likely lead to new forms of some of the bulk scintillators with improved resolution and light yield.
  • High purity germanium (HPGe) is the highest resolution semiconductor material, and no other material will be able to challenge it for the foreseeable future.  While HPGe is of unmatched resolution in the isotope identification role, it has the drawback of required cooling to liquid nitrogen temperatures to achieve high resolution.  Recently, Peltier coolers have eliminated the liquid nitrogen requirement, but the thermoelectric coolers have cost, energy consumption, and form factor issues of their own that make them a less than optimal      solution.
  • Cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) represents the most studied material that has demonstrated adequate performance as a room temperature detector alternative to HPGe.  While CZT does not have as good a resolution as HPGe, for most domestic security applications it can satisfactorily perform the isotope identification role that currently is done by HPGe and CZT-based detectors have a much improved form factor.
  • However, CZT has struggled with significant crystal growth issues and has a cost that is several times higher than that of HPGe (already much more expensive than the scintillators).  Unless this cost can be significantly reduced, CZT will be too expensive, except in those applications where the form factor of the detector is critical, such as mobile domestic security and military applications.
  • If the cost can be reduced, CZT could have major radiological imaging applications.  The higher resolution and sensitivity allow for lower doses of radioisotopes and shorter scan times.  GE medical has purchased some CZT crystal synthesis capacity.
  • Aluminium antimonide (AlSb) represents another possible room temperature semiconducting material, but it is less developed than CZT.  AlSb has been demonstrated by LLNL, but contamination and doping issues in during crystal growth still need to be addressed.  Meanwhile, silicon carbide represents a well-known room temperature radiation detector that has applications as a dosimeter in high radiation environments due to its radiation hardy structure.
  • Finding substitutes for 3He for neutron detection has been one of the biggest transition areas in radiation detection materials over the past 2-3 years.  BF3, boron-lined tubes, 6Li-coated plastic fibers and 6Li-coated glass fibers are viable candidates for 3He substitutes in portal and handheld detection applications.
  • Of the viable neutron detection substitutes, only boron-lined tubes are commercially available that meet the form factor of current portals and requirements for equivalent efficiency to 3He, low gamma ray sensitivity, and retention of neutron detection efficiency in the presence of high gamma radiation sources.
  • BF3 meets the efficiency spec for a 3He substitute, but cannot meet the spec within the form factor of current 3He portals.  It is also highly toxic and requires higher voltage electronics than current 3He systems. Li doped glass and plastic fiber systems available today do not meet the efficiency specification for a 3He substitute.  Glass fibers systems also are unable to maintain their neutron detection efficiency in the presence of large gamma ray sources.

About NanoMarkets:

NanoMarkets tracks and analyzes emerging markets in advanced materials and provides unique coverage and forecasting of radiation detection markets. Visit for a full listing of NanoMarkets’ reports and other services.


Robert Nolan
(804) 938-0030