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MY TECHNOLOGY CAN...Detect Invisible Radiation Threats

Thermo Fisher Scientific's SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detector quickly finds and identifies gamma radiation to protect officers and the public.

Thermo Fisher Scientific's SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detector can alert law enforcement officers to the presence of dangerous radiation at traffic accident and crime scenes.Thermo Fisher Scientific's SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detector can alert law enforcement officers to the presence of dangerous radiation at traffic accident and crime scenes.Photo: Thermo Fisher Scientific

Threats to law enforcement officers responding to accidents and terror attacks aren't always immediately discernible; and yet invisible threats are just as real and dangerous as the ones that are visible. That's where Thermo Fisher Scientific's SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detector can help. It's small enough to fit in your pocket and easy for anyone to use, so you can know what you and other citizens are up against.

The Problem

First responders arriving on the scene of a catastrophic accident may encounter ionizing radiation, emitted by radioactive material, from a number of sources, including medical and industrial sites, vehicles transporting cargo, aircraft, ships, and more. At the scene of a damaged cargo container, overturned tractor-trailer, or a crashed plane, for example, there can be sources of radiation in the wreckage that don't advertise their identities and the nature of the cargo might not be known immediately. Unaware first responders could be exposed to dangerously high doses of radiation in a short time without even being aware of it until later, when it has already done its damage.

Unfortunately, in virtually all such situations, first responders are on the "front lines" and as such are in the greatest danger of accidental exposure to radiation. Protecting them and the public from unknown sources of gamma radiation is challenging because such sources are everywhere. Hospitals use radioactive materials in diagnostic procedures and cancer treatments. Blood banks and hospitals irradiate blood for use in immune compromised patients. Food is irradiated, as is water and other beverages. Manufacturers of devices for medical and industrial applications embed small amounts of radioactive materials in their products.

In addition to innocent uses, the potential for terrorists detonating a radiological dispersal device (RDD), also known as a dirty bomb, comprised of stolen nuclear material is great due to the extensive availability of radiological material sources. With numerous fixed targets such as buildings, public parks, and monuments, as well as mobile or temporary targets such as parades, races, or special events, police departments have often utilized a mix of different detectors to locate threats.

The Solution

Advances in technology now make it possible for first responders to carry one accurate, compact, powerful detection device that is handheld and no larger than an electronic pager. The Thermo Scientific RadEye SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detector is a fast and highly reliable all-in-one extended range unit for search, find, identification, and response missions. It's made to provide high-performance measurement of radiation and radionuclide analysis for any scenario.

While that might sound complicated, it doesn't need to be. The RadEye

SPRD-ER offers multiple modes of operation and is highly configurable for novice to advanced users. Operators can use the instrument as a simple 0–9 scale radiation level gauge, or they can choose to turn on dose rate readings, simplified gamma ID classification, or full spectroscopic capabilities.

In practice, the RadEye SPRD-ER is easy to carry in a holster or on a duty belt and seeing detection results is easy thanks to the instrument's large display with improved screen resolution and brightness. You get results automatically, without the need to press buttons, and instructions quickly guide you through the steps to take after an alarm. Whatever the results may be, you'll see comprehensive data neatly organized and presented on screen so you can decide what to do next. The RadEye SPRD-ER also features Bluetooth integration with iOS and Android devices and complimentary RadResponder iOS and Android phone apps.

And you don't need to worry about the instrument's ruggedness, regardless of the situation. It is built to withstand extreme temperatures and challenging environments. Its small, lightweight design is drop-resistant and IP65-rated.

One of the aspects of the SPRD-ER that makes it so useful to law enforcement is the underlying advanced technology that gives it the ability to reduce false alarms without sacrificing sensitivity, due in part to the implementation of complex algorithms. With traditional PRDs, high numbers of false positives are caused by natural radiation commonly found in building materials and food or as a result of medical procedures. But the SPRD-ER continuously analyzes the environment and immediately differentiates between artificial and natural background radiation so you know if you're really dealing with a threat.

The SPRD-ER's patented Natural Background Rejection (NBR) algorithm significantly reduces nuisance alarms that result from concentrated, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM), such as granite, natural stone, and subway tiles. It can also quickly identify the class of radioactive agent present, the specific isotope, and its typical application. This gives you additional real-time information quite literally in the palm of your hand.

For example, patients recently treated with radiation for a medical purpose may trigger several alarms daily to a single detector. On the other hand, next-generation PRDs detect the radiation and properly classify it, providing key information about the specific kind of material to support an officer's intuition or prevent him or her from leaping to a false conclusion. Knowing the type of material also helps first responders identify and treat contaminated people in the actual event of an RDD explosion.

The RadEye family of Personal Radiation Detectors (PRD) from Thermo Fisher are high-sensitivity gamma radiation detection and dose rate measurement tools. The RadEye SPRD-ER personal radiation detector is designed to localize radiation sources and monitor exposure even when entering high dose rate scenarios.

Here are some of the numbers behind it.

The RadEye SPRD-ER's extremely high dose rate measurement and accuracy, with measurement capabilities of ≤1000 R/h (<10 Sv/h), supports users with one unit for search, find, radiation identification, and response missions. It offers dose rate accuracy across the full spectrum of 20keV–3 MeV and offers a new highly sensitive alarm for artificial gamma (S-Alarm). This supplies extra sensitivity in the range of 90–450 keV for effective detection of Special Nuclear Material (SNM). SNM is a term used by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to classify fissile materials, material capable of sustaining a nuclear fission chain reaction. The SPRD-ER's source-less detector gain stabilization improves radiation identification selectivity and accuracy in varying environmental conditions.

Staying on Mission

To sum up, the advanced NBR discrimination of the SPRD-ER identifies artificial radiation while minimizing false alarms. This allows first responders to respond and react swiftly for rapid adjudication of potential threats. It gives the operator the ability to quickly distinguish between SNM, industrial, and non-threat radiation sources, e.g., medical or natural materials. It offers neutron indication via proven prompt gamma analysis, simplified ID capability for novice to advanced users, and multiple modes of operation, allowing it to easily be configured to best align with radiation detection operating procedures already in place.

Johnny Long is global product manager, radiation detection, for Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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