Editorial Feature

The Composition of Nuclear Protection Suits

Although there is no simple suit that can shield a person completely from radioactive nuclear radiation, some achievement has already been accomplished in developing nuclear safety suits that provide significant protection. Here we discuss nuclear protection suits, their composition, manufacturers, recent studies, and future prospects.

nuclear, radiation, alpha, beta, x-rays, gamma, rays, nuclear protection suits

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The damaging impacts of ionizing radiation on biological tissues are well documented. Since its discovery, mankind has worked to safeguard the public and the army in the case of the employment of certain weapons, mishaps in industries powered by atomic energy, and hazardous cosmic rays.

How Do They Work?

Most of these suits are made up of boron, activated carbon, lead, rubber, fabric, and other radiation-resistant materials. Generally, these nuclear protection suits provide safety against alpha and beta particles and, to some extent, X-ray and Gamma-ray radiation. The boron present inside the suit absorbs alpha and beta particles, protecting the person who wears it.

Similarly, lead provides some protection against X-rays and Gamma rays. Additional protection from X-rays and gamma rays is provided by nano polymeric compounds with metals that have higher atomic numbers and chemical-resistant polymers. This resultant compound provides radiation protection by retaining the properties of the chemical barrier and the metal used.

Composition of Nuclear Protection Suits

Generally, radiation suits include a dosimeter, hat and face shield, steel-toed, radiation-resistant boots, coveralls, a hooded radiation-resistant suit, and self-contained breathing apparatus.

The materials used in nuclear suits against harmful radiation depend on the source of danger. If the source emits alpha radiations, then simple and inexpensive means of protection such as a respirator and rubber gloves can be used.

To avoid the consequences of beta particle exposure, a protective suit that includes a gas mask and special fabrics made from plexiglass, aluminum, and light metal can reduce exposure.

To protect against gamma radiation, heavy metals are utilized. Some suits have iron and steel materials for protection; however, lead is proven to more effectively dissipate dangerous radiation.

Neutron radiations are also very hazardous. The materials used in nuclear safety suits that protect against these radiations are usually synthetic materials. Therefore, instead of steel or lead, polymers are used.

Manufacturers of Nuclear Protection Suits

Nuclear hazards can be divided into radioactive particles and ionizing electromagnetic radiation hazards. The source of these ionizing radiations determines the type of radiation that emits from it. Some sources only produce one form of radiation, while others produce both electromagnetic radiation and radioactive particles.

The fabric materials used in single-use suits do not provide complete protection from electromagnetic radiations like X-rays or gamma rays. However, DuPont manufacturers have built protective suits like Tychem and Tyvek that provide significant protection against alpha and beta particles. However, they do not offer any suits that offer protection from both electromagnetic and particle radiation. Generally, the manufacturers that offer such protective suits use lead-based materials for suit fabrication, although lead has proven to cause cancer and other illnesses in humans; therefore, there is always risk involved in using such suits.

Recent Studies

A study published in 2019 has discussed novel lead-free radiation shielding materials for radiation protection. In this study, scientists have addressed the use of different materials like tungsten and concrete for protection against nuclear radiation, as well as lead toxicity and its harmful effects on human health. The scientists involved in this research emphasized the urgent need to develop next-generation nuclear radiation protection materials to save humans from radiation impacts.

Future Prospects

At this time, personal suits that protect from all kinds of radiation are not available. Moreover, some materials that are used for shielding radiation have other side effects, such as lead. However, with advancements in material science and nanotechnology, it is expected that more advanced materials and manufacturing methods will soon be developed to create a universal radiation suit that protects against all types of ions and radiation.

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References and Further Reading                              

AbuAlRoos, N. J., Amin, N. A. B., & Zainon, R. (2019). Conventional and new lead-free radiation shielding materials for radiation protection in nuclear medicine: A review. Radiation Physics and Chemistry, 165, 108439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.radphyschem.2019.108439

Pksafety 2018. Do You Need a Hazmat Suit for Radiation?. [online] Available at: < https://pksafety.com/blog/do-you-need-a-hazmat-suit-for-radiation > [Accessed 18 May 2022].

Unusual Design. Suits against radiation: a review of protective suits. Does the suit help to completely protect against the radiation environment? - repair. [online] Available at: < https://bw.freechevalmirrorplans.com/13734-all-about-radiation-suits.html > [Accessed 18 May 2022].

Dupont.com. Radiation Suits | Nuclear Suits | DuPont Protective Apparel. [online] Available at: < https://www.dupont.com/personal-protection/nuclear-protective-clothing.html > [Accessed 18 May 2022].

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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