Company: Innovative Physics
Category: Test, Measurement & Inspection Product of the Year
Innovative Physics Limited (IPL) is a research development company which evolves current technologies to provide novel solutions and deployment techniques to radiological obstacles for the benefit of customers and society. The internationally experienced team consists of 13 engineers, physicists and technicians which devote themselves to developing new approaches to radiological detection amongst other things. With a wealth of knowledge (70+ years), the company has at its core, an extensive patent portfolio in radiation visualisation, signal imaging and processing, sensor development, artificial intelligence (AI) and pattern recognition algorithms.
IPL, whose headquarters and research and development (R&D) facilities are based on the Isle of Wight, is a privately investment backed R&D technology services organisation which operates on an international scale with foreign governments and business leaders across Asia, Europe and USA. The company offers custom, modular, flexible solutions to customers and collaborators alike. Opportunities are identified through customers and partners working within the industry and market feedback. IPL predominately works in Civil Nuclear, Health Physics, Homeland Security and Medical markets.
Founded in 2008, the company’s products and services are based on the use of AI and sensor solutions. Originally creating handheld radiation dosimeters, the company has grown and incorporated an extensive portfolio of products and technologies. This includes the range of radiation imaging systems known as â€œHot Spot Locatorsâ€ (HSL) developed following the catastrophic Fukushima tsunami and the subsequent nuclear accident in Japan in 2011. Radioactive material was released when the plant reactors exploded, leading to the mass evacuation of the area. Since then, the company has provided a number of consultancy projects to its Japanese and Chinese customers which has integrated the company further into the Civil Nuclear industry.
Decontaminating an area containing nuclear waste is a complicated due to the intangible nature of radiation; dangerous contaminants are difficult to detect quickly. Traditionally, radiation workers survey small areas meticulously (every square centimetre) with handheld meters. Not only is this cumbersome but it takes hours to inspect. Using a radiation imaging system such as the HSLs rapidly reduces the time and process. The HSL provides an image/video of a large area; with the user observing where radiation hot spots are located, along with the type of radiation being emitted. The HSL speeds up decontamination work, reducing the exposure of radiation workers and saving lives in the process.
Signals from an array of high-energy-radiation sensor are coupled with a set of geometrically opposed shadows. IPL’s specially designed deconvolution algorithms utilize the information eliminating background radiation, revealing both the source of radioactivity, and the isotope. The HSL systems use Coded Aperture. These are collections of multiple holes, which a computer program can convolve to create the true image; but, the HSL uses an antisymmetric coded aperture which when rotated becomes a geometric opposite to the previous pattern. Taking two images and subtracting them from one another removes any background radiation. This leaves you with a light weight gamma camera, perfect for quick deployment in the rural areas around Fukushima. With this, IPL have found that, compared to other imaging systems on the market, the HSL is around five times more sensitive than any camera of a similar size and weight.
Additionally, the newest HSL (HSL Spectral) uses artificial intelligence to identify which isotopes are present within the image. Using the neutral networks approach has allowed for the use of a less expensive sensor than competitors, with the same results. Thus, HSL is one of the cheapest and most sensitive gamma camera available which has contributed significantly to its success.
IPL have identified a number of areas in which the HSL could be significantly helpful tool, some of these the systems are already deployed; these include: Nuclear power plants to monitor radiation levels within the facility to ensure they are safe for the workers to be in. Nuclear decontamination following an accident/disaster and Nuclear decommissioning when research sites/plants/facilities are shutdown.
One key area in which these systems are important is in re-validation of decontamination clean up, one case study which outlines this is in the residential areas of Fukushima, Japan. End Users and residents within the exclusion area required evidence that their homes have been decontaminated to safety standards upon returning. The HSLs provide clear before & after image, which non-radiation experts can understand, therefore providing an idea of true levels of contamination. Almost seven years after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant, radiation levels as far as 80km away from the site are still 10 times higher than they were before the incident. Consequently, over 100,000 people are still displaced, and the clean-up effort is ongoing. The quicker the area around Fukushima can be decontaminated, the earlier people can return to their homes, and the faster the area can go back to providing agriculturally to the rest of the country.
With countries all around the world looking to develop radiation visual detection capabilities the market is substantial. Over 110 commercial power reactors, 48 experimental or prototype reactors, over 250 research reactors are retired and will be decommissioned. An OECD Nuclear Energy Agency survey published in 2016 reported costings for decommissioning in the US is expected to total between $544 to $821 million and the clean-up of UK legacy nuclear sites is estimated to cost Â£117 billion over 120 years.