Officials at a Chicago-based startup say innovations discovered in Purdue University’s School of Nuclear Engineering are being commercialized to address challenges in improving radiation detection and making sealants and adhesives safer.
Rusi Taleyarkhan, chief technology officer at Sagamore-Adams Laboratories LLC and Purdue professor of nuclear engineering, said radiation sensors are used in the security, medical, energy and consumer goods sectors. However, traditional radiation sensors were originally meant for large, nuclear power reactors and not for use in combating nuclear terrorism, or for use in homes or small businesses.
“The currently available radiation detectors are being applied to situations they were not designed for, and they are very expensive,” he said. “Because of this cost, on average less than 5 percent of the cargo that enters or leaves the U.S. is scanned for nuclear materials, despite the damage a single nuclear device can cause. The same is true for consumer use of radon detectors. Few homeowners can afford the currently available radon sensors in their homes beyond simple charcoal canisters, despite radon exposure leading to lung cancer and more than 25,000 deaths in the U.S.”
Taleyarkhan and other Purdue researchers have developed technology that could lead to radiation sensors that cost less and provide better information than traditional sensors. The technology has been licensed exclusively to Sagamore-Adams Laboratories through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. More than 20 startups based on Purdue intellectual property were launched in the 2014 fiscal year.
Brian Archambault, manager of production technology development, said Sagamore-Adams Laboratories is looking to develop low-cost, efficient and intuitive detectors that allow defense specialists and the general public to see and hear radiation. The technology behaves in a similar way to a stretched rubber band.
“When a rubber band is stretched far enough, it will break upon its own pressure. If you stretch the rubber band just below its breaking point and create a small imperfection, with a pin prick for example, it will break below that level,” he said. “We do the same thing with fluids: We increase the tension far enough that femto scale, nuclear particles will interact with it and create cavitations, which are liquid-free areas that look and sound like popping bubbles. Our sensors also will be able to tell the directionality of the radiation, so users can not only detect the presence of radiation but also tell where the radiation is coming from. This feature could benefit defense and security personnel.”
Taleyarkhan said Sagamore-Adams Laboratories also is developing radon sensors for homeowners using this technology.
“These sensors with tensioned fluid will provide highly accurate results to homeowners within minutes to hours rather than days and weeks required by traditional systems like charcoal canisters,” he said. “The company’s goal is to have these available for the U.S. market within a few months.”
Sagamore-Adams Laboratories also has developed PLAtech, an adhesive that is made from non-petroleum-based feed stocks like corn, wheat or sugar cane, and is biodegradable under composting conditions. Traditional adhesive sealants are used in automotive manufacturing, plywood manufacturing, flooring and other industries.
“Some adhesives and sealants are very toxic, and people might breathe in volatile organic compounds while making them. We have created PLAtech to be safer than conventional adhesives and sealants, work equally as well, and have a competitive price point,” he said. “We can tailor PLAtech’s bond strength, flow rate and viscosity for a wide range of applications. We have found that it is a near-universal adhesive that can coat, seal and adhere to wood, plastics, ceramics, metals, carbon fiber, glass and even Teflon.”
Sagamore-Adams Laboratories’ technology development has received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation, along with venture capital. The research also was funded by the Purdue Research Foundation-managed Trask Innovation Fund, a development mechanism to assist faculty with work to further the commercial potential of technologies disclosed to the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.
Ron Ragains, chief operating officer, said Sagamore-Adams Laboratories believes in the work of Taleyarkhan and Purdue students at his laboratory.
“There are several innovations being developed by Rusi and his students that are filling vacancies in the world, including the radiation sensors and the PLAtech adhesive. My colleagues and I are involved in commercializing this research because of our confidence and belief in the work these researchers are doing,” he said. “We are speaking with several industries and prospective company partners about the sensors and PLAtech.”
Source: Purdue Research Foundation