A new approach to data analysis of pulse data from a radiation detector
Cumbria based Createc Limited, formed in 2010, develops innovative applications of imaging and sensing technology for civil, nuclear, security, defence, aerial photography, and manufacturing. These include a compact radiation imaging system, techniques for explosives detection, intelligent sensor systems for Unmanned Air Vehicles, and high resolution aerial digital video systems. Heavily R&D focussed, they continuously generate new concepts, and develop them to prototypes and final use.
Radiation imaging is the process of making images using gamma or x-ray radiation, just as a camera makes images with light. This technology is used in the clean-up and decommission of legacy nuclear facilities. The image formed using this method allows for the identification and determination of the location of radioactive contamination, and as a result allows for the safer and cost effective decommissioning of nuclear facilities. However, taking measurements in high radiation fields results in large amounts of data being generated, and due to data processing limitations, there has to be a trade-off between fine resolution analysis and the number of data samples to be analysed.
The company required a method to analyse the large amounts of data generated during radiation imaging. They wanted to test a concept they had that they thought would increase and optimise data processing to minimise the length of time for measurements, whilst maintaining data resolution.
Createc has a long term partnership with Lancaster University’s Engineering Department focussing on nuclear detection and radiation monitoring and has engaged in a number of ways such as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Nuclear Engineering Doctorate program, and the part funding of a Phd student. In addition to this, Createc also employs a Lancaster Engineering graduate. They approached Dr Stephen Monk, Lecturer, Engineering Department, and Dr Mark Rushforth, Head of Business Partnerships & Enterprise, Physical Sciences, for assistance.
Support was provided via a two month summer internship that focused on testing the viability of a new approach to data analysis of pulse data from a radiation detector. 2nd year Engineering student John Elmer, under the supervision of Dr Stephen Monk, worked with Createc to generate a large data set from a high activity source -Cesium -137, which was then used to develop novel data analysis techniques that processed the data significantly more quickly, whilst maintaining the resolution from the radiation imaging system.
Createc successfully applied for £5000 of seed funding from Lancaster University’s Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) to fund the internship and facilities use. The IAA is £600,000 funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council to finance a range of activities designed to foster greater collaboration with industry and bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace.
Subject to further development, the results from this project indicate that the investigative data analysis technique has the potential to drastically improve both current and future Createc products, as well as being developed as a standalone product with a significant impact on the radiation detection industry.
- Progressed product development- potentially smaller, lighter, more technically capable product than current products in the marketplace, providing a unique selling point for the businesses
Dr Alan Shippen, Research Associate, Createc Limited, explains, “The research conducted into the Multi-channel Analyser (MCA) was designed to produce a dataset with prototype equipment with which to develop a technique that was capable of sampling radiation at much higher fluence-rates than is currently possible using commercial off-the-shelf devices. If the project became commercially viable this would provide a unique selling point not only through the increased sample rate but would also allow the spectroscopy in areas currently unavailable to such techniques.
“Also, by developing the device in-house the size, shape and fitting methods used in the implementation will be dictated by Createc. This means that the final bespoke packaged N-Visage sensor could feasibly be much smaller and lighter as well as technically much more capable than it is at present; thus opening up further business opportunities for the expanded device and removing the uncertainty intrinsic linked to commercially closed devices resulting in improved quality.
“The project will be developed into a fully-fledged MCA product that will be used inside N-Visage over the next year to 18 months. A relationship will be continued with the university, especially in the nuclear section of the Engineering Department. The expertise available in this department for technical areas we work in or indeed hope to work in in the future, as well as the equipment available within the department which would otherwise be unobtainable, make it important that a relationship is maintained.
“We are looking into increasing the capability of N-Visage with neutron detection and are currently sponsoring a PhD giving the student access to the newly available neutron source unavailable to ourselves elsewhere. All told the partnership with Lancaster University gives us access to a unique opportunity to maintain our technologies as industry leading in the nuclear imaging field,” Alan added.