Innovative “lighthouse” detectors, which use a sweeping beam to pinpoint a radiation source in seconds, are reducing radiation exposure for workers and opening up new areas for robotic monitoring to avoid potential hazards.

Los Alamos’ Jonathan Dowell explains how a radiation detector deployed on a HAZMAT robot minimizes human exposure to radiation.

These directional sensors are similar to a beam atop a lighthouse and can scan through a narrow angle looking for radiation. The Laboratory uses the detectors aboard HAZMAT robots for emergency response, as well as to conduct geologic surveys.

The small radiation detectors, patented by Los Alamos National Laboratory and commercialized by industrial partner Quaesta Instruments, are easy to carry and deploy. They’ve taken what used to be the size of a baseball bat and miniaturized it to the size of a jar of peanut butter.

In a test later this year, numerous detectors will be deployed using a robot to survey radioactive materials at the Trinity Site. In addition to the historical significance of measuring minute traces of such materials, the survey will also demonstrate the ability to test large areas in a short time while eliminating the need for workers to enter the site. A detector will be deployed on a robot’s arm to reach down into nooks and crannies.

The detectors can be used in various applications including locating contaminants at waste sites, conducting inventory, tracking the movement of radioactive materials for national security purposes, and verifying that areas are free of radioactive sources. Industries that can benefit from the technology include universities and hospitals.

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Sensor Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2018 issue of Sensor Technology Magazine.

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