Adapting Smart Dust for Nuclear Safeguards Application

Jawad R. Moussa - Sandia National Laboratories
Isaiah Padilla - Sandia National Laboratories
Shannon Abbott - Sandia National Laboratories
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Innovation and technological advancements continue to push the boundary of limitations set on how small a technology can be. Particularly, advances in microelectromechanical system (MEMS) technologies have enabled the development of wireless communication networks of small, low-cost, low-power, and multifunction sensors. Such systems are more commonly referred to as Smart Dust, a term synonymous with systems consisting of many millimeter- to nanometer-sized MEMS operating together as an integrated and massively distributed wireless sensor network (WSN). Although the technology is generally considered to have a low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at this time, recent advancements in the field suggest that it is developing towards reaching the size and capability to make Smart Dust networks more successful and commercially accessible. Nevertheless, since the idea was first presented in the late 1990s, the concept of building a distributed network of wireless MEMS has impacted many sectors such as agriculture, industrial, medical, and the automotive industry. Adapting Smart Dust for nuclear safeguards application could provide a wide range of safeguards utility and the potential to advance areas within the space, such as Containment and Surveillance (C&S) and Material Control and Accountability (MC&A). In particular, Smart Dust’s ability to execute programmed functions and record data given its size provides an opportunity for researchers and safeguards specialists to explore potential new data streams for monitoring materials at nuclear facilities. It also provides an opportunity to expand sensor networks into previously unreachable areas. This work provides a general overview of Smart Dust technology and its current state of development alongside scoping its applicability to the nuclear safeguards space. It aims to analyze the key drivers towards adoption and focuses on the analysis of potential use cases of Smart Dust in safeguards applications and the potential impact of such use cases. Detailed scenarios that would demonstrate Smart Dust’s utility in the near- and long-term are also presented.