22 June 2017 11:59

A prototype detector that will be able to help identify radioactive leaks around major nuclear sites is to be developed by Lancaster engineers and commercial partners.

The technology will enable more efficient environmental monitoring of leaks from nuclear sites as the device will be able to extract tritium, a hazardous radioactive isotope of hydrogen, selectively by simple, fast electrolysis. Current monitoring involves a lengthy process of separation of elements in laboratories.

Lancaster University, and spin-out company Hybrid Instruments Limited, have won a £78,992 funding award from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency to develop the device. The award was made as part of Innovate UK’s Energy Game Changer competition. The University will receive funding of £30,000 and Hybrid Instruments are co-funding the work.

Professor Colin Boxall, Director of the Lloyds Register Foundation International Joint Research Centre for the Safety of Nuclear Energy, said: “This project presents a unique opportunity to blend state of the art nanomaterials synthesis with cutting-edge radiometrics in service to tritium detection. We are excited by the partnership with Hybrid, the research itself and the prospect for making real impact in addressing a long-standing problem in nuclear analytical science.”

The 11-month project, entitled TRIBECA2 (Tritium detection By Electro-Chemically Assisted radiometrics-2), follows a 12-month feasibility study involving Lancaster Engineering PhD student Ghere Berhane.

Dr Frank Cave, Commercial Director of Hybrid Instruments, said: “Our business was founded on technology developed at Lancaster and we have maintained a close relationship with researchers in the Engineering Department. The earlier project demonstrated the technical potential of the technique and generated high levels of commercial interest. We are very pleased that the expert assessors agree. The funding will enable us to progress to trials with potential users.”