Remote and real-time optical detection of
alpha-emitting radionuclides in the environment
Progress beyond the state of the art and results

New method and instrumentation for the optical detection of alpha particle emitters in the environment by air radioluminescence

Optical detection of alpha particle emitters in the environment by air radioluminescence is a new technology that enables sensing of a radiological threat at safe distance, without putting first respond personnel and equipment in harm's way. This standoff detection technique gives advanced warning of potential threats, in contrast to conventional detectors for alpha contamination which are built in a hand-held format and must be positioned within a few centimetres of the source in order for the alpha radiation to be detected. At the heart of this novel technology developed in this project is an optical detection system, optimised to collect large numbers of radioluminescence photons. The instrument can be operated as a standalone device, for example, operated from an UAV vehicle or deployed on a vehicle and then operated from a tripod.

Development of a calibration system for the novel-type radioluminescence detector systems

To facilitate the deployment of novel-type alpha-radioluminescence detection systems developed in the objective 1, this project will establish SI traceable calibration procedures, new and specific calibration schemes and novel portable calibration standards. This state-of-the-art portable calibration standard will also allow the temporal stability of the radioluminescence detector, including potential wavelength shifts of the (interference) filters and changes in the spectral responsivity of the photomultiplier-based detectors to be monitored, hence contributing to quality assurance.

Extending the optical detection system to an imaging functionality for mapping of alpha contaminations in the environment

Mapping large-scale contaminations with traditional hand-held alpha detectors exposes operators to immense risks, on top of other difficulties such as contamination of the detector and poor areal resolution. Therefore, this project will develop an unmanned airborne monitoring system (UAMS) that enables automated scanning and imaging of large contaminated areas. The UAMS comprises a fit-to-purpose UAV, the optical detection system developed in objective 1 and calibrated in objective 2, real-time data transmission and analysis module, and the ground control station. Procedures to calibrate UAMS based radiation monitoring systems will be developed and validated using metrologically sound approaches, for the first time.

Feasibility study for a laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopic method for the detection of alpha emitters

The laser-induced fluorescence method is a novel technique for detection of alpha particles that complements the alpha-radioluminescence technique. Active laser probing of the contaminated area with high repetition rate (e.g. up to MHz) using lock-in amplification technique and short-time windowing could dramatically reduce the effect of ambient noise. Furthermore, this technique enables realisation of Fluorescence Light Detection and Ranging (Fluorescence LIDAR) which could provide a distance-dependent measure of radiation by recording the time the laser pulse is emitted and the laser-induced radioluminescence signal is measured.