New Technologies Boost Radiation Detector Effectiveness

By Valerie Insinna

As the neutron-detecting material Helium 3 grows ever more expensive and scarce, companies that make radiation detectors are looking for alternatives offering better performance at a comparable price.

A new product, the RIIDEye X manufactured by Thermo Scientific, replaces Helium 3 with a material called CLYC.

Not only can CLYC be used to identify gamma and neutron radiation, “we actually doubled the detection efficiency for neutrons for the same volume of Helium 3,” said Jim Monde, the company’s director of homeland security and defense.

The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are phasing out procurement of devices that use Helium 3, but Thermo is among the first companies to integrate CLYC into products, he said. CLYC is still expensive, but prices will decrease as use of the material becomes more widespread.

Besides the use of CLYC, the RIIDEye X incorporates other changes that differentiate it from legacy RIIDs, or Radiation Isotope Identification Devices, Monde said. RIIDs analyze the spectrum of radiation in order to identify specific radioactive materials. For example, the RIIDEye X identifies gamma and neutron radiation within solids, liquids and semi-solids and can be used on food or people.

Thermo improved detection accuracy through a patented algorithm that allows the device to identify radiation in real time.

A different algorithm enhances the detection of special nuclear materials such as plutonium. Most RIIDs are set to identify special nuclear materials within a pre-programmed scan time, which can potentially give incorrect results, he said. RIIDEye X is preprogrammed to identify special nuclear materials after 30 seconds, but if more information is needed for accurate results, the device will alert the user and recommend additional time.

The company also increased the detector’s ruggedness and designed it to be more user friendly, with a color-coded display and raised buttons so that someone wearing a hazmat suit is easily able to work it, Monde said. 

“Most legacy RIIDs in the field today don’t normally perform extremely well in most environments, such as mechanical shock and vibration, so we really concentrated on making this a very ... rugged isotope identification device.”

For instance, every side of the device can survive 3-foot drops onto concrete. “You will not see another RIID be able to accomplish that,” Monde said. 

RIIDEye X was introduced in October, but the company has been testing it for months with potential customers such as the Departments of Energy and Defense, he said.

“The Department of Defense, they are extremely hard on their equipment, and they are very, very happy that they’ve got something that can take a very, very rough environment,” he said.

Topics: Business Trends, C4ISR, Sensors, Science and Engineering Technology

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