ASPIRE: Advanced Self-Powered sensor units in Intense Radiation Environments

Research area Connectivity 
Dates 01 Feb 2017 - 31 Jan 2020
Funder EPSRC
Contact person Prof Andrew Nix

A cross Faculty collaboration between Physics, Chemesty and the Communication Systems & Networks research group in the Faculty of Engineering.  

The project is led by Professor Tom Scott, addressing the UK's nuclear legacy is the largest, most important environmental remediation programme in Eurovision, with estimated expenditure of £115 billion over the next 120 years. A significant proportion of this cost is associated with decommissioning and management of high and intermediate level radioactive waste; material that is too radioactive for direct human handling. There is therefore a need for remotely operated, waste characterisation technologies to enable monitoring of such wasteforms in their interim and final storage locations. 

Due to the extreme radiation fields present, retrospectively fitting sensors that rely upon cables for power and data transmission is not feasible and hence alternative technologies for powering sensors are required. Our project will seek to address this challenge by developing a solution using advanced diamond materials to harvest energy from radioactive decay to power small, portable devices containing multiple sensors that pass data over wireless networks. 

There are clear benefits for the technology including: less wiring, less maintenance, less dose to operators and an extended lifespan of sensors or mobile platforms. The sensors powered by such devices would be able to provide information for long periods of time that would otherwise be challenging to gather but none the less very important for long term safety cases. Therefore, this technology could represent a significant financial saving for UK plc.  By the end of the project we would aim to develop a self-powered sensor device for monitoring of radiation, humidity, temperature and gases in high radiation environments. Through the project we will meet the following key objectives:

  • Demonstrate the feasibility of using diamond as a radiation energy harvesting material, both from beta and gamma radiation.
  • Demonstrate that the energy harvested from radiation can be utilised to power sensors and communication devices.
  • Investigate the development of wireless, automated data transmission in challenging/shielded environments.
  • Demonstrate prototype devices at various irradiation facilities and hot cells within the UK and KURRI.
  • Demonstrate the deployment of an advanced prototype on a UK nuclear site, e.g. Sellafield, UK. 

Project team


Principal investigator:  


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