Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New portable radiation detector can assess safety of potentially contaminated areas

Date:
November 1, 2010
Source:
National Physical Laboratory
Summary:
The UK's National Physical Laboratory has developed a new portable radiation detector that can assess the safety of potentially contaminated areas far quicker than current methods. The prototype was inspired by the aftermath of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London 2006.

The UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a new portable radiation detector that can assess the safety of potentially contaminated areas far quicker than current methods. The prototype was inspired by the aftermath of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London 2006.

Litvinenko's death was due to radiation poisoning from polonium-210. It prompted wide-scale work to assess radiation levels at almost 50 premises in London that he had been prior to his death before opening them up again to the public, costing the Health Protection Agency 2 million.

The clean up process took an extended period of time as scintillation counters were used to detect alpha particles and therefore measure the radiation levels. Alpha particles only have a range of about 2 cm and can be suppressed by surface moisture and roughness. Geiger counters also require a skilled operator to work, making it a painstaking and laborious process to scan wide areas very close to the surface.

NPL has developed a prototype device which can detect the optical photons generated by alpha particles in air, thus having a far greater range.

Alpha particles can cause ionization of nitrogen in air, which in turn produces fluorescence photons that show up as discrete spectral lines in the UV band of the electromagnetic spectrum. These photons can travel much further than alpha particles and are not hindered by surface particles or roughness and can be transmitted through any UV transparent material such as plastic or glass. This means an area could be made safe before a contamination assessment is carried out.

NPL has developed a portable device for low-level monitoring in normal lighting conditions. Laboratory tests have shown that the prototype is capable of detecting alpha induced nitrogen fluorescence at distances greater than the range of alpha particles (2 cm). The prototype has demonstrated detection up to 20 cm, limited currently by the optics on the device. However, the principle is completely scaleable with small devices having a range of cms and non-portable devices reaching kms.

Ray Chegwin, Business Development Manager at NPL, said: "NPL has a strong heritage of using world class measurement science to benefit society and industry in the UK and beyond. By producing a prototype that can measure radiation up to ten times further away than current methods we can greatly improve the time it takes to safely assess any suspected radioactive areas. Our prototype could have saved the time it took to monitor the areas relevant to the Litvinenko case, and cut the costs of such an essential operation. Of course, the detector could be used to support radiation safety and decommissioning operations in the nuclear industry, amongst others, and we're currently investigating these."

About the NPL Alpha Detector:

The spectral range of the fluorescence photons emitted due to alpha ionisation of nitrogen are located in the predominantly UV range (300 to 490 nm) of the optical spectrum. Tests have been carried out to eliminate any possibility of the detected signal coming from beta or gamma radiation.

The device can operate in a sodium lamp room. In this environment, the light levels are similar to normal room light levels (lights on). The filtered detector is entirely blind to the wavelength of light emitted by sodium lights. The detector is also capable of detecting the fluorescence signal through any UV transparent material.

The optical housing has been designed so that any 1-inch optics can be inserted to select particular wavelengths. The device is modular; adapters could be made for larger optics, larger area detectors can also be used. Custom electronics have been designed and implemented to make the device portable. A lithium ion battery provides up to 8 hours of usage in field-based applications.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Physical Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Physical Laboratory. "New portable radiation detector can assess safety of potentially contaminated areas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101102534.htm>.
National Physical Laboratory. (2010, November 1). New portable radiation detector can assess safety of potentially contaminated areas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101102534.htm
National Physical Laboratory. "New portable radiation detector can assess safety of potentially contaminated areas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101102534.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Driverless cars could soon become a staple on U.K. city streets, as they're set to be introduced to a few cities in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins