Houghton Professor Wins R&D 100 Award for Second Year

September 4, 2023

Dr. Katrina Koehler ’11, assistant professor of Physics, won the R&D 100 award in the Mechanical/Materials category for the Hyperspectral X-ray Imaging Detector (HXI) as part of her research at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

The detector overcame barriers to provide detailed analysis of the chemical and elemental composition of material at the nanoscal level. This new development by Koehler and the team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado allows for a resolution 20 times greater than currently available technology. Koehler’s contributions focused on interpreting early spectra and making theoretical predictions of spectral shape.

“With the spatial resolution of a scanning electron microscope and the energy resolution of microcalorimeters, the HXI detector is able to do science that has only ever been previously possible at beam lines. For example, now on a particle by particle basis, this instrument can distinguish between various oxidation states of uranium, important for determining whether the uranium particles taken from a given mine are in the usual form of yellow cake or in a pre-enrichment or post-enrichment form. Answering this and similar questions is important for international safeguards.”

This is the second time that Koehler has won the R&D 100, previously in the IT/Electrical category for a Spectrometer Optimized for Facility Integrated Applications (SOFIA). This ultra-high resolution gamma spectrometer allowed for nondestructive assay of nuclear material.

We are so blessed to have Dr. Koehler working here at Houghton while she maintains her connections with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Through Dr. Koehler, current physics students have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge summer research projects at LANL, and graduates of the physics program have an inside track on employment opportunities at LANL.

Jill Jordan, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Dean of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
Houghton professor Katrina Koehler with two Houghton students looking through microscopes in lab.