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Smart’ flash memory that tests out radiation

A 5cm long ‘smart’ dosimeter has been put together at a Moscow R&D lab of Russia’s nuclear energy watchdog, Rosatom. A typical USB flash drive by the looks of it, the contraption is compatible with a broad range of mobile and desktop electronics and checks radiation levels in different environments. It is another in an emerging series of Russian IT responses to radiation hazards in an international market estimated in the billions of dollars.

Moscow-based SNIIP, a major research lab developing instruments for nuclear energy, has designed what the developer calls a “smart dosimeter” to monitor radiation. The new device that looks—and partly functions—like a regular USB flash drive can be hooked up to a cell phone, a desktop or laptop computer, or any other similar gadget to alert its user to any change in a radiation environment, whether it’s indoors, in a car, on a bus, or among pedestrians.

In addition to assessing radiation the innovation, just five centimeters long and one centimeter thick, is also a standard memory capable of storing 16GB of data.

The developer

SNIIP is a leading R&D arm of Atomenergomash, a major hardware supplier of Russia’s nuclear, thermal and hydrocarbon energy sectors. SNIIP focuses on state-of-the-art instruments that monitor radiation levels at nuclear installations.

Both SNIIP and Atomenergomash are part of Rosatom, this country’s largest government-run nuclear energy corporation and regulator, acting as an umbrella for all national nuclear energy producers and R&D companies.

Mapping out global radiation

The dosimeter uses standard online services like Google Maps to feed data into what the developer claims will be a “global radiation environment map”—a feature that SNIIP said as far back as last year would be “unique” and a “cut above the existing competition.” The map currently gives details on mostly Russia, but Rosatom has plans to make it truly global.

The nuclear watchdog also hopes that with commercially available SNIIP dosimeters the Russian Federation will now be able to address the nationwide problem of checking radiation levels without enormous government spending.

More on the supply side…

In the wake of a number of alarming events in the global nuclear sector, especially after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, developers across the globe seek innovative solutions to turning any electronic device into a handy ‘radiation sentinel.’

There’s a competitor to the Rosatom invention almost in SNIIP’s own backyard, at Moscow’s Intersoft Eurasia. A developer of software for a broad variety of IT applications, the young company is already marketing abroad its Do-Ra dosimeter-radiometer fully compatible with Apple-based mobile gadgets.

Intersoft Eurasia first announced its innovation two years ago. The $10-50 Do-Ra comes in clip-on and built-in options, and is designed to help check radioactivity in humans, livestock and property. The company claimed that its device would not only measure levels but would also ‘interact’ with its owner by delivering diagram, voice or text data and recommendations on possible precautions. It is GLONASS/GPS-compatible, too.

Both SNIIP’s ‘smart’ dosimeter and Intersoft Eurasia’s Do-Ra are part of what experts estimate to be a potential $20bn international mobile radiation metering systems market. 

2013-09-10, Marchmont News, Oleg Kouzbit.

Keywords: electronics, safety and security, R&D, memory devices

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