Anew method for measuring radioactive methane is an optical one based on spectroscopy. Previously, radioactive methane has been measured with accelerator mass spectrometry involving expensive machines. Optical measuring could be a cheaper and more agile method.
The new method is based on the absorption of materials, i.e. how the material retains light at different wavelengths. By measuring how much the material absorbs, researchers can deduce how much it contains different components.
The team analyzed which wavelength the light source should have in order to measure radioactive methane. This is a first step towards a functioning measurement device. Optical methods have been used before to measure radioactive carbon dioxide. So far, the same precision has not been reached with optical methods as with accelerator mass spectrometry.
The optical method could be applied in fields such as energy production and for determining the composition of fuel; how much of a biofuel consists of biogas and how much is natural gas. The method could also be applicable in nuclear power plants to measure the levels of radioactive methane on-site. Samples would no longer have to be sent to a laboratory.