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Gamma For Innovative Applications
55 countries have approved the use of irradiation*
200+ large-scale irradiators in the world
120 large-scale irradiators built by Nordion
* – Source: History and future of food irradiation, Jozsef Farkas and Csilla Mohacsi-Farkas, 2011
Every day around the world, there are problems to solve—from environmental concerns to helping people in third-world countries to ridding food of dangerous bacteria. Gamma can be successfully applied to these challenges.
Nordion is a world leading supplier of Cobalt-60—the isotope that produces gamma radiation, a design authority for commercial gamma processing systems that irradiate products and a dedicated advocate for gamma technology. Furthermore, our dedicated first-class team of chemistry and physicist experts collaborates with customers to solve unique product challenges.
What are the Applications?
Material Modification of Natural Polymers
Gamma irradiation makes it possible to redesign a particular material so that it serves a specific purpose. The polymer, cassava starch, for example, is the base material to make super water absorbents (SWA). SWAs processed by radiation are useful for agriculture in areas where there is little rain or frequent periods of drought. SWAs keep the fertilizer close to roots for as long as they need it. This reduces waste, reduces pollution of waterways and saves farmers money.*
* – Source: IAEA Division of Public Information, 2013
Disinfestation of Beehives
American Foulbrood (AFB) is a serious bacterial disease that affects beehives. The disease is essentially incurable leaving beekeepers with few options but to burn infected hives, which can result in significant replacement costs. Gamma is a cost-effective alternative that has been demonstrated to be an effective means of treating AFB-contaminated hives for reuse.*
* – Source: Gamma radiation sanitation in beekeeping management
Insect Population Control
Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) was pioneered in the 1950s to control populations of insects that spread disease or impact agricultural crops. Gamma irradiation is used to render male screw-worm flies, tse-tse flies and other fruit flies sterile. Large numbers of sterile males are then released into the wild, dramatically reducing the number of insects in the next generation. Repeated release can eventually wipe out a population of insects. A World Food Prize was awarded to Dr. Raymond Bushland and Dr. Edward Knipling for their development and use of this technique.
Material Modification of Advanced Polymers
Irradiation is commonly used to enhance or change the properties of polymeric material through cross-linking and other mechanisms. For example, irradiation is used to convert high density polyethylene (HDPE) to medical grade ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) which has specific properties advantageous in orthopedic devices. Irradiation is also used to cross-link the polymeric insulation on wire and cable to enhance features such as temperature rating, insulation properties, tensile strength and abrasion and chemical resistance.
Microbial Reduction for Medical-purpose Marijuana
With government regulations changing to legalize marijuana for medical uses, licensed producers need to ensure the safety of their medicinal product for patients. One of the ways to ensure a product meets regulatory requirements is to use gamma irradiation as a final processing step to reduce the microbial levels. The process is flexible, reliable, versatile, affordable and proven as many producers of medical marijuana are currently using gamma to ensure compliance and safety of their product.
Disinfection of Cosmetics
Gamma is used in the cosmetic industry for containers, applicators and the cosmetics themselves both proactively as part of a quality program to control sources of micro-organisms and reactively to mitigate contamination of cosmetic products.
Material Modification of Gemstones
Gemstone traders use gamma irradiation to enhance the colors of gemstones by creating changes in their crystalline structure. Examples of precious gemstones to which gamma processing has been applied include but are not limited to topaz (to create a rich cobalt-blue), tourmaline and quartz.