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Space camera detects radiation, assesses danger

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Japanese researchers have developed a new way to detect and monitor potentially dangerous radiation.

Japanese researchers have developed a new way to detect and monitor potentially dangerous radiation.

Scientists based at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency have been working in partnership with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). According to a recent press release, the collaborative project designed to develop radiation levels more efficiently has been a success.

In the aftermath of Fukushima and subsequent concerns over radiation and nuclear reactor safety, the team have designed a new gamma camera that can be used to help alleviate some of the these worries.

The device, the 'super-wide angle Compton Camera', uses technology that originates from space exploration -- namely, it monitors radiation in the same manner that the ASTRO-H satellite (also known as NEXT or New X-ray Telescope) is able to.

Radiation is detected via this spectrum and sensor-based technology. The camera is capable of creating images of gamma ray-emitting radioactive particles though advanced sensors with a 180 degree capability.

What makes the camera useful in relation to more land-bound activities is that it can detect radiation that has collected at high altitudes. These can include area such as building roofs -- where it is normally difficult for measurements to be collected with existing survey meters.

The Compton Camera has been trialed this year to detect radiation levels in a field test. At the Kusano area of Iitate village in Fukushima, the camera measured both radiation and concentration levels. According to the release, the trial was successful -- resulting in a broad area and higher degree of accuracy in radiation detection than other gamma cameras are able to detect.

In conjunction with TEPCO, JAXA and JAEA will develop the camera towards feasible use in radiaoactive material monitoring and decontamination work. Not only can it be used in dangerous areas (such as at the Fukushima nuclear power plant) but it could also be used to monitor close-by areas and assess their safety levels.

Image credit: TEPCO

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure