Researchers in Japan have developed a method for making radiation detection devices out of recycled PET bottles that cuts costs by 90% over currently used devices. The resource reusing, life-saving gadget was developed at Kyoto University by Hidehito Nakamura and his team and uses “Scintirex,” a plastic resin that glows when in contact with dangerous levels of radiation. The demand for radiation devices in Japan is high after the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster. The team hopes to have a final product by the end of September.
Nakamura thinks they’ll be able to begin selling the detectors to high profile government agencies by the end of next month for 10,000 yen or $130 – just one-tenth the cost of current devices. To create the device the team was able to combine low-cost, flexible, strong and widely available recycled PET resin with plastic scintillators which act as radiation detectors. When the scintillators come in contact with radiation their electrons enter an excited state and their movement causes the particles to glow faintly. The team believes that their detector is not only cheaper but more reliable at detecting harmful radiation than current plastic scintillator models.
Each year, Americans alone buy and dispose of 28 billion plastic water bottles — that’s not including other beverages that come in plastic containers — and only 23% are recycled. Finding new and inventive uses for recycled plastic PET bottles will ensure that the resources used to make them don’t go to waste. Though we love that companies are making house paint, decorative objects and furniture out of old plastic bottles, it is really rad to see a life-saving gadget like a radiation detector being reused from something that might have ended up in a landfill otherwise.