Scientists at the University of Lancaster, England have created a special “cat’s eye” camera capable of seeing radiation emitted by a nuclear reactor. This camera has a nuclear detector that can “see” the high intensity fast-neutrons and gamma rays simultaneously and can monitor the fuel burn-up in the nuclear power plant.
Research student Jonathan Beaumont and Malcolm Joyce, professor of nuclear engineering developed the camera by being inspired by the eye of a cat. Conventional nuclear detectors are installed in the nuclear core and are subject to extreme conditions. In the event of a disaster, such as that at Fukushima, the detector would be destroyed completely.
Beaumont and Joyce’s cat’s eye camera is a portable detector that weighs just 20 kilograms and can be activated well outside a nuclear reactor. It can be operated remotely and can generate images in near-real time. The camera consists of a detector plate situated behind a collimator (a type of filter) that has a slit shape hole, just like a cat’s eye during daytime. The hole limits the radiation that hits the detection plate.
Through its slit shape, the collimator can pinpoint exactly the source and the direction of the radiation and saves precious time to respond to emergencies. “If you use a traditional collimator, which is essentially just a pipe, then it can be swamped, it would be like looking at the sun,” said Joyce. “We can get an impression of where the optimum position on the other axis is, and then we are able to quickly move to that position,” added Beaumont.
The cat’s eye camera created by the researchers is an ideal instrument in monitoring and detecting the source and the level of neutrinos and gamma rays while a nuclear reactor operates, or in case of an accident. The device is described in the journal Nature Communications.