A team of scientists from North Carolina State University (NCSU) has successfully developed a new polymer that could be a lighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly radiation shielding base material. The team, led by Da Cao, introduced vanized trioxide particles in polymethyl acrylates (PMMA, commonly known as plexiglass) and then cured them with ultraviolet light to produce a very light, high-strength material with effective gamma-ray resistance.
Photo by NCSU
How to protect organisms and precision equipment from ionizing radiation is a major concern in the military, commercial nuclear energy, nuclear medicine and space exploration. The problem is that traditional protective gear is often very bloated and heavy, and many contain toxic metals such as lead.
Scientists have been studying polymers from a variety of materials as a relatively non-toxic, lightweight, compact and inexpensive alternative. In the NCU proof-of-concept study, the team turned to vanadium trioxide, a very common material with a wide range of industrial and medical applications.
As part of the study, the team mixed different amounts of vandis in the uncured liquid PMMA, a material that hardens under ultraviolet light. This makes the material easier to manufacture than other materials that rely on high-temperature technology, according to Ge Yang, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering.
“With UV curing, we were able to make this compound in a matter of minutes at room temperature, which offers the potential for rapid production of radiation shielding materials,” says Yang. This is important because thermopolymerization, as a commonly used method of manufacturing polymer compounds, often relies on high temperatures, and thermal polymerization laws take hours or even days. Uv curing methods are fast and inexpensive. “
“This is fundamental work, and we’ve determined that this compound is effective in shielding gamma rays, which are lightweight and high in strength,” Yang said. We are working to further optimize this technology for the best performance of the material. We are pleased to find a new type of radiation shielding material that works so well, so lightly, and can be made so quickly. “
The study was published in the journal Nuclear Engineering and Technology.
Source: North Carolina State University