If all hell breaks loose, so to speak, and you are fortunate to still be alive in a spot that is suddenly in a torrent of dangerous ionizing radiation, you can use any of several popular medicines to start to gauge the radiation level that you’re begin exposed to. That’s the theme of this new study:
“Popular Medicines as Radiation Sensors,” Anna Mrozik and Paweł Bilski, IEEE Sensors Journal, epub 2021. (Thanks to Ela Manikowska for bringing this to our attention.)
The authors, at the the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences, explain:
During an uncontrolled release of radiation, it is highly unlikely that members of the public will be equipped with personal radiation dose monitors. In preparation for such a situation various personal objects are being investigated as emergency dosimeters. The already developed methods are not satisfactory, as they are time-consuming or require destruction of things valuable for victims. Here we show, that common pharmaceuticals, which frequently may be found e.g. in personal bags, are the perfect candidate as radiation sensors in emergencies. We investigated several over-the-counter medicines for occurrence of the optically stimulated luminescence phenomenon and found that all of them exhibit strong luminescence signal following exposure to ionizing radiation. Its intensity increases linearly with the absorbed dose. The highest sensitivity was shown by the popular painkillers based on ibuprofen and paracetamol…. Pharmaceuticals are also free of all disadvantages of other emergency dosimeters: their composition is standardized, sampling is immediate, the unit value is usually negligible.
These are the medicines that were tested, all of which “exhibited strong luminescence signal following exposure to ionizing radiation”: