Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists have discovered a way of detecting radioactive contamination in the ground from a safe distance.
Professor Ray Frost, from QUT’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, developed the method to detect from a remote location uranium deposits that have leached into the soil and water.
Many uranium minerals, especially the secondary minerals, are soluble and can translocate or move in water to areas far away from where uranium sites are found. This means that uranium minerals could arise in soils and sediments from unknown origins and in locations far from their origins.
Frost said that using near infrared spectroscopy, radioactive minerals could be detected by scientists located far away from a contaminated site.
‘Using a fibre optic probe and the near infrared spectroscopy technique, we have found that we can detect whether uranium minerals are present in soil,’ said Frost.
‘Near infrared spectroscopy can identify the types of uranium minerals that are present. This means we can now identify whether or not radioactive deposits exist and the risk these deposits might present to both the environment and the community.’
Near infrared spectroscopy uses a light source to scan the surface of a material to identify the chemical properties of that surface. In doing so, it is possible to determine whether or not radioactive uranium minerals are present in the ground.