New method tracks radiation levels faster

New method tracks radiation levels fasterTokyo, Nov 9 - Researchers have hit upon a new way of tracking radiation faster and more efficiently at nuclear power plant accident sites.

Seiichi Yamamoto and Jun Hatazawa from Kobe City College of Technology and Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, have combined three modes of detection into a single hybrid technology.

The new technology would also drastically limit the exposure of clean up workers to hazardous radiation, journal Review of Scientific Instruments reports.

Radioactive decay produces three types of emissions: alpha, beta and gamma. Alpha particles comprise two neutrons and two protons, according to a Kobe City College statement.

Because of their large mass and relatively slow speed, alpha particles are the least penetrating of the three types of radiation, and can be stopped by a sheet of paper.

Beta particles are electrons that can travel farther than alpha particles but not as far as high-energy gamma photons, the third type of radiation.

The researchers took advantage of the different penetrating properties of the three types of radiation to design their device. Their new radiation detector has three scintillators, which are sheets of material that light up when hit by radiation.

Alpha particles strike only the first scintillator, beta particles travel on to the second scintillator, and gamma photons make it all the way through to the third scintillator.

The scintillators were then coupled to a photomultiplier tube, a device that converts the light pulses into electrical current.

Because the shape of a light pulse differs depending on which type of radiation produced it (alpha particles produce sharp peaks, gamma particles more broad pulses), the device could distinguish between the different radiation types and produce counts for all three simultaneously.(IANS)