Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Polaris-H detector maps nuclear radiation in real time


March 17, 2014

"This technology enables people to 'see' radiation," says Zhong He, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan and CEO of H3D

"This technology enables people to 'see' radiation," says Zhong He, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan and CEO of H3D

Image Gallery (12 images)

Turn on any old science fiction film and odds are that you'll see someone listening to the ominous chirping of a Geiger counter. It's very dramatic, but not very precise and, unfortunately, nuclear scientists and engineers of today are stuck with the same problem. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a faster, cheaper way for nuclear power plants to detect and map dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods using a camera that maps radiation in real time.

The cliché of a buzzing, clicking box isn't that far from modern reality. Mapping out precise, accurate measurements of radiation in a given area is a laborious, expensive, dangerous and time-consuming task. Worse, the more accurate equipment needs to be cryogenically cooled, it’s bulky and slow, and costs in the neighborhood US$200,000.

The University of Michigan solution is the Polaris-H detector. Based on technology based on a project to track down nuclear terrorists, it's marketed by the spin off company H3D. The Polaris-H is a handheld radiation camera containing a cadmium-zinc-tellurium, room-temperature gamma ray detector of unprecedented precision that's much lighter and half the cost of cryogenic devices that lays a gamma-ray map over an image of an area.

"This technology enables people to 'see' radiation," says Zhong He, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan and CEO of H3D. "This should enable the early detection of leaks by locating abnormal radiation, a much better understanding of radiation sources to protect workers, and it could be a tool for the clean-up effort of nuclear waste and fallout, such as in Fukushima in Japan."

According to the developers, the Polaris-H operates much faster than previous devices, doing in half an hour what used to take weeks. It not only detects the presence of radiation, but accurately pinpoints the sources and allows the user to track down sources and potential trouble spots, such as partially clogged pipes, stray radioactive particles and leaky fuel rods, as well as the ability to monitor radioactive plumes.

H3D president William Kaye says that the system can not only tell if a set of pipes are radioactive, but which ones, and at what spots the radiation is most concentrated. It works in real time and is operated from a touchscreen controller via a 15-ft (4.5 m) cord. The camera is set up, switched on using a simple on/off switch, and the operator retires to a safe distance while the camera stores data on a USB drive for later analysis.

"Our demonstrations used to last 20 minutes," says Kaye. "Now we just switch on the machine and say, 'Okay, these are all the isotopes, this is where they are, any questions?'"

The Polaris-H is currently at use at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Michigan, and the Institute for Basic Science in Daejeon, South Korea, as well as NASA and the US Department of Defense.

Source: H3D

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

This is great!

I imagine that this could be easily incorporated into the Schaft robot (the one that won the recent Darpa Robotics Challenge). The ability for such a robot to be able to "see" radiation in real-time would be invaluable.


This gamma camera is wonderful. Would you present someone to me? My name is called Norio Watanabe. I am acting as a teacher of the high school. I live in Koriyama-city, Fukushima-pref in Japan. There is no knowledge in case of a nuclear power plant disaster, refuge is also impossible, and it has contaminated a little children. I studied radiation from the spring of 2011, and it manufactured 10000 Geiger counters. The radiation of Fukushima Prefecture here and there was measured, and the map was also created. Although decontamination is starting little by little, it is still insufficient. There is no equipment which can be visualized and some people of the prefecture are passing these uneasy days. If you please, please save us.

I cannot speak English. I utilized translation software, and have changed and transmitted to English. There may be a place where English is strange. I am sorry. Thank you for your consideration.


norio watanabe
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles