stand off detection of Alpha and Beta sources
We propose for the first time a stand off and wide area capable airborne technology to detect and georeference any biologically harmful sources of ionizing radiation on the ground - including Alpha and Beta radiation.
Sources could be nuclear weapons, dirty bombs (RDDs), fissile material (special nuclear materials), radiological materials or the radioactive fall out from such weapons, devices and materials - including the wide area ground shine in the aftermath of an event.
The principle and up to now unsolved problem in radiation detection - and for that matter in "homeland security" - is the inverse-square law. It states that the amount of radiation available for a detector at a given distance from a radiating point source is inversely proportional to the square of that distance. Detection capabilities of all radiation detectors are directly dependent of this function.
The inverse-square law is the brick wall into which all radiation detection technologies run into very quickly. This of course is most obvious in cases where one needs to detect Alpha and Beta sources.
However there are further factors influencing the detection capability of current detectors. They include the intensity of the radioactive source, the attenuation of radiation due to shielding and terrain, the detector types including their dimensions and of course the variability in the natural background radiation.
For the first time we are capable to circumvent with our technology approach the limitations arising from the inverse-square law by minimising the distance between the detector and the source to practically zero and by still being able to detect, record and georeference the signal from such an extreme "close in" detector from far distances and even from the air in full flight over wide areas.
Our concept is based on:
- Radiation tolerant whole cell live biosensors which start to produce large amounts of detectable fluorescent proteins while under cellular stress from any biologically harmful ionizing radiation.
- The ability to spread these biosensors over wide areas using established crop duster technologies
- The minimal distance between the biosensor as the detector and the radioactive source upon which the biosensor settles out of a spray mist as this yields always the maximum radiation strength available from a source - be it shielded or not.
- The capability to detect and map fluorescent biosensors from far distances over wide areas using terrestrial or airborne laser technology to excite, detect, record and georeference fluorescent biosensors sitting on or near radioactive sources.
Future developmental work will be based on the principles and technologies developed in our current research program dealing with the stand off detection of trace explosives (AirBorneMineScan).