A small, fast and accurate novel radiation detector has been developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
‘Lighthouse’ detectors minimize exposure to dangerous radiation

Innovative “lighthouse” detectors that use a sweeping beam to pinpoint a radiation source in seconds are reducing  exposure for workers and opening up new areas for robotic monitoring to avoid potential hazards.

“It’s easier to find a needle in a haystack if the haystack is small,” said detector inventor Jonathan Dowell, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist.

The detectors can hone in on an area while eliminating background noise or naturally occurring radiation, Dowell said. Directional sensors, similar to a beam on a lighthouse, scan through a narrow angle to look for radiation.

Los Alamos National Laboratory uses the detectors on HAZMAT robots for emergency response and to conduct geologic surveys.

“The more we can reduce radiation exposure, the better it is for the people doing the work,” Dowell said. “Using a robot or automated machines can help.”

The small radiation detectors, patented by Los Alamos National Laboratory and marketed by industrial partner Quaesta Instruments, are easy to carry and use.

“We’ve taken what used to be the size of a baseball bat and miniaturized it to the size of a jar of peanut butter,” said Dowell.