Cell phone with built in radiation sensors to thwart nuclear terrrorism

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (KUNA) — A newly developed cell phones detect radiation to thwart nuclear terrorism, able to detect even slight residues of radioactive material, researchers hope will one-day blanket the nation.

“It’s the ubiquitous nature of cell phones and other portable electronic devices that give this system its power”, said Ephraim Fischbach, physics professor at Purdue University, in a statement Tuesday.

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He and other researchers are working on developing a network of radiation-detecting cell phones, already equipped with global positions systems that would function as a tracking system.

Since most cell phones serve multiple functions, like built-in cameras, internet access, MP3 players, researchers saw its potential function as a detection device that could one day be in the hands of millions of people.

Purdue researchers have teamed up with Andrew Longman, a consulting instrumentation scientist, and telecommunications company AT and T to develop networking software that integrates with radiation detectors and cell phones.

Researchers said the device would be particularly useful in urban and metropolitan areas.
“The likely targets of a potential terrorist attack would be big cities with concentrated populations, and a system like this would make it very difficult for someone to go undetected with a radiological dirty bomb in such an area,” said Longman.

“The more people ware walking around with cell phones and PDAs, the easier it would be to detect and catch the perpetrator. We are asking the public to push for this.” He added.
Researchers tested a prototype in November, demonstrating that it is capable of detecting a weak radiation source within 15 feet from the source.

The phone can report its locations and send data to a receiving tower, so if radiation is detected, it would beam a signal to a home station and integrated software would uncover and evaluate the levels of radiation.

The signal grows weaker with increasing distance from the source, and the software is able to use the data from many cell phones to pinpoint the location of the radiation source.
Researchers said the system could be trained to ignore known radiation sources, such as hospitals, and radiation from certain common items, such as bananas, which contain a radioactive isotope of potassium.

In addition to detecting radiological dirty bombs designed to scatter hazardous radioactive materials over an area, the system also could be used to detect nuclear weapons, which create a nuclear chain reaction that causes a powerful explosion. The system also could be used to detect spills of radioactive materials.