Wearable sensor detects chemical, biological, radiological agents

Lightweight, reusable, real-time dosimeter detects chemical, biological and radiological agents

Sensors Environmental

Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have developed a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon sensor based on electrophoretic technology that using minimal electrical power while providing instant identification of dangerous agents.

DoD photo

The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Electronic paper, also called electrophoretic ink, combines advantages of regular paper and electronic displays. Electronic paper is comprised of micro-containers filled with charged particles that form a stable colloidal solution. An external electric field can move the particles within the micro-containers and change the overall color of the device.

Electrophoretic displays are commonly used in consumer electronics, like e-readers. When the electronic paper is irradiated, the incoming gamma-rays interact with the embedded particles and generate a recoil electron. Since the basic sensing principle of the electronic paper is based on charging particles within a transparent micro-container, it can also be used to detect chemical, biological, or radiological agents. Military, law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders are routinely exposed to potentially dangerous CBR agents and require reliable detection.

Radiation detectors tend to be bulky and cannot be worn on regular clothing. Wearable dosimeters do not give instant warnings, can only be used once, or require constant re-calibration. Semiconductor-based dosimeters need continuous battery power. There is a need for a radiation dosimeter based on electrophoretic displays that are re-usable, wearable, lightweight, provides instant identification, and requires ultra-low power.

The electronic paper is irradiated using a radioactive isotope Caesium-137 source. An incoming gamma-ray interacts with a particle inside a micro-container by generating a recoil electron or a hole. Because the recoil electron physically leaves the particle, the particle is charged depending on the dose from the radiation source. The charge of the particle changes, which results in a movement of the particles within the microsphere. After refreshing the electronic paper, a visible difference in the gray-scale is seen.

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