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article imageAirport safety: a new way to check for radiation

By Tim Sandle     Sep 6, 2012 in Science
A new technique is being developed which could see radiation detection of cargo and baggage at airports and ports become more effective and less expensive.
The new technology being developed is called Spectral shape discrimination (SDD) by a research team based at Sandia National Laboratories. The new process uses devices called metal organic frameworks (MOFs). These MOFs are tiny nanopores.
One of the problems with checking items like baggage to see if there is a radioactive device in them is finding a way to filter out the normal background radiation which is natural to the Earth or is generated from legitimate electronic devices. To address this issue, according to science site Azonano, the MOFs distinguish between high energy neutron particles and background gamma rays.
As reviewed by Laboratory News, the new device is designed to be easy to use and when high levels of radiation are detected, a visible red and blue light will be produced. The light is produced from plastic materials that fluoresce when struck by charged particles or high-energy photons (becoming ‘excitied’). Most other types of radiation measuring devices monitor the rate at which radiation is emitted.
A key point about the new technology is that it is relatively cheaper to manufacture than current devices which contain complex electronic components.
The research was led by Patrick Doty, Patrick Feng, and Mark Allendorf. According to PhysOrg, the technology has potential. However, the technology has yet to be produced on a commercial scale.
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