New Sensor Tech Expands Nuclear Applications and Safety

Nuclear power plant.

Nov 17, 2017

The reluctance to fully embrace nuclear energy as a more prominent source has never been about output or quality. Rather, the expense of the facility and overarching safety concerns have been the primary hurdles to greater acceptance.

Recent developments by researchers from Moscow State University could help turn this tide. They recently discovered a mechanism that allows gas sensors, based on nanocrystalline metal oxides, to work at room temperature. This innovation could help raise the efficiency of environmental monitoring in sensitive locations like nuclear power plants or where nuclear generators are used, such as in submarines and spacecraft. The discovery was initially reported in Scientific Reports.

Most gas detection devices need heat sources to operate effectively, but researchers discovered that composites of zinc and indium oxides can be employed to increase the sensor's ability to sense hydrogen significantly. This means that a unique heat sink is not needed, which helps lower energy consumption and improve readings in potentially volatile environments. It also means that additional heat is not being introduced to potentially explosive conditions.

In addition to enhanced nuclear monitoring capabilities, these sensors could also be used for environmental pollution monitoring in industrial plants or other areas where the slightest change in the chemical composition of the environment can lead to casualties. The more efficient nature of the sensors could also allow for their placement in mobile devices.