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Commercial Applications

Commercial uses of radiation include irradiators (machines used to kill bacteria and other pathogens in food and other items), devices that test the density of highway and construction materials, emergency exit signs, pacemakers, smoke detectors, and security screening at airports and shipping ports.


FIRE SAFETY IS NO ACCIDENT—thanks to the smoke detector.

Fire Safety Tip

Experts say the simple act of installing smoke detectors on each floor of your home can go a long way toward saving your family from a fire. Smoke detectors, first patented in 1902, have saved countless lives. Today, the ionization smoke detector is the most commonly used. This type of smoke detector is one of the many applications of research done by nuclear scientists and engineers. The ionization smoke detector uses a tiny bit of radioactive americium-241, a source of alpha radiation. An air-filled space between two electrodes creates a chamber that permits a small, constant current to flow between the electrodes. If smoke or heat enters the chamber, the electric current between the electrodes is interrupted and the alarm is triggered. This smoke alarm is less expensive than other designs and improves the original smoke alarm by measuring more than the heat of a fire. It can detect particles of smoke too small to be visible.


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