In this day and age, a nuclear disaster is never too far away. At least in theory that is. This is where our most coveted electronics might come into play, especially when it comes to detecting radiation.
If a nuclear event was to occur, personal electronics might be converted into radiation detectors. Most of the devices in use today have a ceramic insulator that glows under high heat. This reveals the levels of radiation it was previously exposed to. This means that doctors might be able to determine the amount of radiation a person received in a matter of hours instead of the few weeks it takes for blood test to produce any viable info.
The way this works is that nuclear radiation enters ceramic parts of electronic devices called surface mount resistors. The radiation then rearranges the electrons inside the ceramic’s crystalline structure.
Researchers can then heat those parts to a temperature of around 100 degrees Celsius until the ceramic starts to glow. The light emanating from the components reveals how the electrons are distributed within that material. This is what scientists then use to determine the amount of radiation present.
A team of scientists used different amounts of grays of radiation to test this technique. One gray of radiation equals one joule of radiation per kilogram of tested material. When the levels of radiation were lower, the researchers were able to determine the does almost precisely. Even when the number of grays increased, they were still able to make an accurate assessment.
The test turned out to be sensitive enough to tell doctors whether a person needs immediate treatment or not. They might also be able to determine if someone has an increased risk of getting cancer.
The biggest issue at the moment is that the device that determines the ceramics luminescence cost around $150,000. This means that each device needs to be sent to specialized facilities for testing.