Ural Federal University: Physicists Have Created New Glasses for Radiation Protection

An international team, including researchers from UrFU, created new glass that protects against X-rays and gamma rays. The new components they have selected improve the characteristics of the samples and allow them to reduce the amount of lead in the composition.

The scientists developed several samples of glass. Glasses with the addition of borate-bismuth showed the best results. A number of radiation protection characteristics of borate-bismuth glasses, such as the half-value layer and the mean free path, are better than those of their commercial counterparts. A description of these samples is presented in the journal Scientific Reports. One of the most recent results, barium fluoride-based glasses, was described by the team in the journal Optik.

“Gamma radiation is used in many industries. For example, in industry to detect defects in metal casting of welds, in medicine to treat cancerous tumors, in agriculture to extend the shelf life of products, in the space industry, and so on. Gamma radiation has a significant penetrating capacity, so we are faced with the task of creating a material that would provide maximum protection and the necessary safety for workers,” says Karem Abdelazim Gaber Mahmoud, a research engineer from the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy at UrFU and an employee of the Nuclear Materials Administration (Egypt).

Today, radiation-shielding glass is mostly made of lead and phosphate. Lead is one of the most effective protectors against gamma radiation due to its high density, but its toxicity and considerable mass of the finished product (the weight of the glass can be up to several hundreds of kilograms) are its drawbacks. That is why scientists all over the world are selecting the optimal composition and components which would help lighten the weight of the glass, preserve its transparency, decrease its thickness and decrease its prime cost. The main problem is that after exceeding a certain percentage of additives, glass loses its transparency just as after absorbing a certain dose of radiation. Therefore, on the one hand, it is necessary to minimize the amount of lead, preserving the protective properties, and on the other hand, to extend the shelf life of the product, its transparency. Scientists from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Malaysia, China, and Egypt are the most active in researching and selecting new components.

“Protective glass began to be created in the late 1940s, in the 1950s, at the time of the emergence of nuclear power. At that time England, America and Russia were solving the problem of observing radiation-hazardous works. They came up with several variants of glass with different additives, but everywhere the basic components were lead and phosphate. The present trend is to find such a composition in order to minimize the amount of lead, or, even better, to replace it with another metal,” says Oleg Tashlykov, assistant professor of the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources of UrFU.

The protective properties of the glass samples were experimentally tested at the Institute of Reactor Materials of Rosatom State Corporation (Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Region). The next stage is further study of the parameters, improvement and optimization of the composition, and commercialization of the technology.

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