A material consisting of a polymer compound embedded with bismuth trioxide particles holds potential for replacing conventional radiation shielding materials such as lead. The bismuth trioxide compound is lightweight, effective at shielding against ionizing radiation such as gamma rays, and can be manufactured quickly — making it a promising material for use in applications such as space exploration, medical imaging, and radiation therapy.

Traditional radiation shielding materials like lead are often expensive, heavy, and toxic to human health and the environment. The proof-of-concept shows that a bismuth trioxide compound could serve as effective radiation shielding while mitigating the drawbacks associated with traditional shielding materials.

The researchers demonstrated that they could create the compound using a curing method that relies on ultraviolet light, rather than relying on time-consuming, high-temperature techniques. Using the UV curing method, the team was able to create the compound in minutes at room temperature, which holds potential for the rapid manufacturing of radiation shielding materials. Thermal polymerization, a frequently used method for making polymer compounds, often relies on high temperatures and can take hours or even days to complete.

Using the UV curing method, the researchers created samples of the polymer compound that include as much as 44% bismuth trioxide by weight. They then tested the samples to determine the material’s mechanical properties and whether it could effectively shield against ionizing radiation. The compound was effective at shielding gamma rays, is lightweight, and is strong.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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