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Particle detectors in action

In this video Dr Jamie Brown describes a new generation of handheld and wearable particle detectors, produced in association with tech company Kromek.

Particle detectors are vitally important for a wide range of industries, from nuclear power, to security, to medical applications. The University of York works with the company, Kromek, to develop our research into commercially available products.

In this video, Dr Jamie Brown highlights one such example – a wearable detector with a smartphone interface. This detector is designed to look for radioactive materials. Such materials give out alpha, beta, or gamma radiation. Alpha particles are helium nuclei (composed of two protons and two neutrons). They are relatively heavy and are therefore easily stopped. Beta particles are either electrons or positrons. Much lighter than the alpha particles, these are stopped by a thin sheet of metal. Gamma particles are high energy photons. As these are massless, they are the most penetrating type of radiation and therefore the best to look for when trying to locate radioactive materials.

The detector Jamie is talking about doesn’t just tell us whether there is radioactive material present. It can also give us information about dosage (how dangerous the material is) and can identify the isotope emitting the radiation within seconds (based on the gamma ray spectrum). Using the phone’s GPS, this detector can then create a map showing the location of any hazards.

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Frontier Physics, Future Technologies

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