Environment News Service

AmeriScan: August 21, 2000

POCKET SIZED RADIATION DETECTOR SCREENS FOR DANGERS

BOISE, Idaho, August 21, 2000 (ENS) - Smuggling nuclear material through U.S. Customs just got harder. An award winning, pocket sized device developed at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) can sniff out even small amounts of hidden weapons material. Nuclear scientist Rahmat Aryaeinejad has designed a device to detect two types of radiation - bundles of massless energy called gamma rays and tiny particles called neutrons. The device, called a dosimeter, has been recognized as one of the 100 most significant technological achievements for the year 2000 by "R&D Magazine." A dosimeter is an instrument that responds to the presence of radiation, and measures the dose or amount of exposure. Used at hospitals, nuclear power plants, and research labs, these devices are an important part of personnel workplace safety. Aryaeinejad is putting the instrument to use for national security.

Aryaeinejad began work on his battery operated detector in 1997 in response to a technology need of the U.S. Customs office. Common radioactive medical isotopes were a constant source of false security alarms for Customs officials. They wanted an instrument that could detect dangerous radioactive materials such as weapons grade plutonium. Aryaeinejad solved the problem by combining two similar sensors to detect gamma rays and neutrons. "The mathematics are simple," said Aryaeinejad, "but no one has made a detector combining two sensors like this before." The sandwich sized sensor is small enough to be worn on a belt and offers comprehensive real time data. The dosimeter can be used in any environment where real time radiation detection is important, such as personnel monitoring at nuclear power plants, monitoring of patients undergoing radiation therapy, monitoring spent nuclear fuel in storage, or monitoring remediation sites containing radioactive material.

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