Radiation is energy that’s being transmitted. Visible light, like the ultraviolet light we receive from the sun, and signals for TV and radio communications are all forms of radiation we encounter every day. It’s useful—we can harness the power of radiation to heat our homes, arm ourselves militarily and combat the growth of cancerous tumors. Too little radiation is ineffective, though, and too much is hazardous to our health, so it’s important that we know how much radiation is present in processes. RADoptic in Mansfield, Ohio, built a fiber optic radiation detector to monitor nuclear waste, nuclear security safeguards and medical radiation oncology.
“Radiation can come from several places, like nuclear power plants for energy or hospitals where it’s used for cancer treatment. It’s important to know how much radiation is being emitted because it’s hazardous to our bodies in large doses,” said Joe Rotunda, founder and partner at RADoptic. “What we see in the industry today is old, outdated, bulky radiation detectors using technology from the 1950s. They’re big and don’t work well in hazardous environments or harsh conditions, which happens to be where a lot of radiation is found. We built a detector based on Naval Research Laboratory technology using fiber optics that is immune to heat or explosive conditions.”
Most of us have heard of fiber optics, typically in the context of telephone systems, cable TV or the Internet. These strands of optically pure glass are as thin as a strand of human hair and can carry digital information over long distances. For RADoptic devices, this means a radiation detector can operate from a distance, up to a kilometer away from a potentially hazardous radioactive environment. It functions by projecting light from a red laser to excite the quartz material in the detector and emit a blue green light indicating the radiation signal. When that light is transmitted back to the fiber, it’s proportionate to the amount of radiation present. Knowing the radiation levels is essential to maintaining a safe environment.
“Radiation may be harmful, we know that. When we harness it, though, we can control it to our advantage. We need to be safe about it, and that’s where our product comes in. Nuclear power plants have waste that needs to be disposed of properly,” said Rotunda. “Levels need to be understood and controlled. In medicine, we’re using it to do extremely important things like fight cancer, but current detectors are taking readings from outside the body and they’re inaccurate. We’re just applying 21st century technology to improve on a process that’s been going on for years.”
RADoptic is developing its innovative product as a member of the Braintree Business Development Center, a northeast Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. At the incubator, they’ve accessed office space and the capital they needed to build their product. They’ve also been introduced to a network of mentors, other entrepreneurs to bounce off ideas, and potential manufacturing partners. Braintree has also helped RADoptic prepare and pitch at several northeast Ohio events including Sundown Rundown where they’ve attracted interest from investors.
“We’ve felt such support from the community here. The team at Braintree has helped us make the connections we’ve needed to develop interest and buzz around the technology, and we’re grateful for that,” said Rotunda. “We have access to so many resources between mentors and technical support and we will keep leveraging them to grow our business.”