Application of radioactive dating
The attributes of naturally decaying atoms, known as radioisotopes, give rise to their multiple applications across many aspects of modern day life (see also information paper on The Many Uses of Nuclear Technology).Radioisotopes are used by manufacturers as tracers to monitor fluid flow and filtration, detect leaks, and gauge engine wear and corrosion of process equipment.Detectors placed opposite the sources register the breaking of the beam and hence the level of coal in the hopper.Such level gauges are among the most common industrial uses of radioisotopes.Fixed gauges are typically used in production facilities – mines, mills, oil and gas platforms – as a means of controlling and monitoring quality from a production process.For example, in the North Sea, fixed nucleonic gauges are sometimes deployed to determine conditions within separator vessels and to monitor residual oil content within separated gas streams.Small concentrations of short-lived isotopes can be detected whilst no residues remain in the environment.
Just as X-rays show a break in a bone, gamma rays show flaws in metal castings or welded joints.Radiotracers are used widely in industry to investigate processes and highlight the causes of inefficiency.They are particularly useful where process optimization can bring material benefits, such as in the transport of sediments.Density gauges are used where automatic control of a liquid, powder, or solid is important, for example as in detergent manufacture.Radioisotope instruments have three advantages: There are two broad types of nucleonic gauges used in industry: fixed and portable.
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The IAEA estimates that several hundred thousand such gauges are operating in industry worldwide.