Oregon State University researchers have invented a new type of radiation detection and measurement device, which means that cleanup of sites with radioactive contamination is set to become faster, more accurate and less expensive.
A patent has been granted on this new type of radiation spectrometer, and the first production of devices will begin soon.
The advance has also led to creation of a Corvallis-based spinoff company, Avicenna Instruments, based on the OSU research. The market for these instruments may ultimately be global, and thousands of them could be built, said researchers.
"Unlike other detectors, this spectrometer is more efficient, and able to measure and quantify both gamma and beta radiation at the same time," said David Hamby, an OSU professor of health physics.
"Before this two different types of detectors and other chemical tests were needed in a time-consuming process.
"This system will be able to provide accurate results in 15 minutes that previously might have taken half a day. That saves steps, time and money," said Hamby.
The spectrometer, developed over 10 years by Hamby and Abi Farsoni, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, can quickly tell the type and amount of radionuclides that are present in something like a soil sample-contaminants such as cesium 137 or strontium 90-that were produced from reactor operations.
It can also distinguish between gamma rays and beta particles, which is necessary to determine the level of contamination.
"Cleaning up radioactive contamination is something we can do, but the process is costly, and often the question when working in the field is how clean is clean enough.
"At some point the remaining level of radioactivity is not a concern. So we need the ability to do frequent and accurate testing to protect the environment while also controlling costs," said Hamby