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Wearable device warns astronauts of increased radiation

11 Jan 2016  | Julien Happich

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European researchers have created what they describe as an active and wearable radiation monitor that can measure radiation in real time and instantly warn astronauts of increased and dangerous radiation levels. This innovative device can surely benefit astronauts who are constantly at risk of the harmful health effects of radiation exposure. It is worth mentioning that previous radiation detectors have only revealed how much exposure an astronaut had received after their return to Earth.

The personal radiation dosimeter system is made up of two parts: a phone-sized mobile unit, worn in a pouch on the astronaut's body, and a personal storage device, which is a docking station to recharge the mobile unit, download data and transmit it back to Earth.

Mobile unit and docking station

Left, a mobile unit, and right the docking station

Measuring 93mm x 58mm x 17mm, the mobile unit is specified to operate in excess of a week on one battery charge (10.5 days nominal) and can display the astronaut ID, the mission dose and the dose rate. It has recently returned from testing on the International Space Station, and in a world-first event, it actively monitored radiation during its launch into space on board the Soyuz spacecraft. The system was developed as a result of the European Crew Personal Active Dosimeters (EuCPAD) project.

A small team at Cork's Tyndall National Institute led by Aleksandar Jaksic of Tyndall's Devices and Systems for Radiation Dosimetry, in close cooperation with the institute's semiconductor fabrication plant, developed, fabricated and supplied three of the four different types of radiation sensors that make up the mobile unit. Each sensor covers a different type or spectrum of radiation to give a comprehensive picture of the radiation environment in space, which is more complex and harder to measure than that on Earth.

The EuCPAD allows researchers to know at all times what the radiation level is and compare them to radiation received in different modules of the space station as well as look at the effects of a Solar Particle Events for example.

Radiation exposure measurement

The personal radiation dosimeter system radiation exposure measurement

"Currently astronauts use radiation detection devices that are passive and only get analysed on their return to tell them what radiation dose they received. If a catastrophic radiation event happens, like a solar flare, they will not know about it in time to protect themselves and hide in more shielded modules of the ISS.

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