Calibration of a system of measuring indoor radon concentrations using charcoal canisters. – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Calibration of a system of measuring indoor radon concentrations using charcoal canisters.

Thomas Kennings

Thomas Kennings

Pronouns: Male

Research Mentor(s): Kimberlee Kearfott, Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences/Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 17
Presenter: 2

Event Link


Radon-222 is a radionuclide present in elevated concentrations in many indoor areas. Radon can pose a health risk to building inhabitants, so accurate and affordable radon screening is needed. Canisters filled with activated charcoal are a common and inexpensive method for testing, with different charcoal batches and canister designs requiring specific calibration. This is typically performed in large volume commercial environmental chambers with controlled and constant temperature, pressure, humidity, and radon concentration. If canisters could be calibrated in less controlled environments both calibration and quality control could be more accessible. The objective of this study was to compare calibrations of charcoal canisters from a controlled radon chamber and a less controlled basement storage room. A group of canisters was sent to a commercial environmental chamber with constant and known radon levels. Another group of canisters manufactured from the same charcoal batch was placed in a basement laboratory with high, naturally occurring radon concentration. Following exposure, each canister was counted using the same gamma-ray spectroscopy system. The data were processed in several different ways before being used to estimate the signal corresponding to a given radon concentration. Certain spectroscopic data processing techniques improved the accuracy of calibrations. Mathematical models were needed to account for radon uptake on the charcoal and the decay of radon and its decay products. Initial results suggest that commercial-grade chambers are not necessary to accurately calibrate charcoal canisters as long as the change in radon as a function of time in the calibration space is measured.

Authors: Thomas Kennings, Jordan Noey, Kimberlee Kearfott
Research Method: Experimental Research

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