Scientist Cody Corbin stands at a lab station, his body is separated from the material he is working with by glass, and his arms are protected by rubber sleeves.

Bruised and bleeding: New materials show where they’re hurt

March 18, 2024 8:00 am Published by

Every over-the-counter medication bottle sports a protective seal, usually a plastic wrap or foam layer, or both. These seals offer signs of tampering attempts. In a parallel concern, the International Atomic Energy Agency relies on tamper-indicating devices to make sure it knows if containers of nuclear material have been opened or tampered with.

However, just as a medication bottle might be opened and the tamper seals carefully reattached by a bad guy, the IAEA is concerned its devices could be bypassed and repaired or counterfeited. A possible solution? Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a groundbreaking prototype using “bruising” materials. Their innovation doesn’t just detect tampering; the new device boldly displays the evidence, like battle scars.

“Our first idea was to create a ‘bleeding’ material where it was extremely obvious that it had been tampered with,” said Heidi Smartt, a Sandia electrical engineer and project lead. “Then we made a new device using these materials where the damage is obvious for people to see. No one has ever done this sort of concept for international nuclear safeguards before.”

Read the complete news release.

Photo: Sandia National Laboratories materials chemist Cody Corbin works in a glove box, preparing a container filled with bead bits that will turn brown if someone attempts to tamper with the container’s contents. (Photo by Craig Fritz)