Know Nuclear

Commercial Applications

Improving Public Safety

Runway lights in the Alaskan outback, heart pacemakers, smoke detectors,  criminal investigation, coating non-stick frying pan, luggage and security screening – all use radiation to make our lives easier and more productive.

For example:


Smoke detectors have saved countless lives

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.  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.

How it works

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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