An innovation for the remote detection of radiating materials is being developed with the participation of MATE

An innovation for the remote detection of radiating materials is being developed with the participation of MATE

Radioactive waste from nuclear power plant accidents or from industry and medicine can disperse alpha emitting particles. These radioactive substances are harmful to human health if inhaled, but can also cause significant damage to the environment, as wind can carry the dust and debris that has become radioactive over long distances. The RemoteALPHA project (19ENV02, EMPIR 2020), with the participation of the Hungarian University of Agricultural and Life Sciences (MATE), which will run from 2020 to 2023, will develop new innovative tools and methods to detect these alpha particles in real time and remotely.

Until now, the detection process for alpha emitters has required direct contact between the source and the detector. A method that allows remote detection is therefore considered to be quite exceptional in the field. The new method would enable experts to detect particles using optical means such as lenses, beam splitters and laser excitation, and these optical systems are designed to be operated from an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone).

Remote measurement method is based on a secondary effect namely the excitation of air particles (mainly nitrogen) by alpha radiation, which then emits UV radiation. The possibility of remote detection is exceptional because it reduces the cost of detection, the health risk to personnel and even gives emergency services more room for manoeuvre to respond to emergencies.

The specific objectives of the 19ENV02 RemoteAlpha project are:


  1. To develop a new method and instrumentation for the optical detection of alpha particle emitters in the environment by air radioluminescence over a detection range of more than two metres. This includes the development of the first prototype of a mobile-outdoor optical detection system for real‑time radioluminescence mapping of alpha sources in the environment.
  2. To develop and establish a calibration system for the novel-type radioluminescence detector systems. This includes a new metrological infrastructure with a dedicated UV radiance standard, well characterised alpha-active environmental sample (mineral-phase, soil, organic and plant specimen spiked with alpha emitters) and a validated calibration scheme for the remote detection of optical system.
  3.   To extend the optical detection system to an imaging functionality for mapping of alpha contaminations in the environment. This includes the development of an unmanned airborne monitoring system (UAMS) that will integrate the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the novel alpha‑radioluminescence detection system developed in the objective 1 to scan and obtain an image of the contaminated area.
  4. To prepare and run a feasibility study for a laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopic method for the detection of alpha emitters. This method complements alpha-radioluminescence and, depending on laser parameters such as pulse power, photon wavelength and pulse duration, can enhance the detectable activity limit to below 1 kBq/cm2.
  5. To facilitate the take up of the results by stakeholders and provide input to relevant standardisation bodies and radiation protection authorities. Information on the project research results will be disseminated by the partners to standards committees, technical committees and working groups such as EURADOS, ISO, IEC, IAEA, BIPM CCRI (I)-(II), ICRM and EURAMET TC-IR. In addition, knowledge will be transferred to the nuclear industry sector.

Publishable Summary


MATE participates in the EMPIR2020 international project as a non-funded consortium member, with the participation of István Nikolényi, MATE Institute of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Dr. Györgyi Bela (IDEAS Science Ltd.), a former collaborator of the University, and Dr. Zoltán Gémesi, research professor, are also involved in the project.


One of the main tasks of MATE is to develop a modular curriculum to help integrate research results into the educational programmes of European universities and to liaise with potential users such as potential businesses, research institutes, disaster management and the Defence Forces.


Project title: A remote and real-time optical detection of alpha-emitting radionuclides in the environment (RemoteALPHA, Project Number: 19ENV02)


Project consortium leader: Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Bundesallee 100, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany.


Project Coordinator: Dr. Faton S. Krasniqi (PTB)


Participating EURAMET NMIS (National Metrology Institutes) and DIS


- Budapest Metropolitan Government Office, Metrology and Technical Inspection Department (BFKH)

- Horia Hulubei National Institute o fR&D for Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH)


Other Participants

- Hungarian University of Agricultural and Life Sciences (Hungary)

- Alfa Rift Oy (Finland)

- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University, Hannover (Germany)

- Tampere University, Tampereen korkeakoulusäätiö sr (Finland)

- Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain)