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General Scientific Researches, Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015. pp.

21-27

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General Scientific Researches


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ISSN:
2409-9872
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved for TI Journals.

Evaluation of Efficiency of a Setup Designed for Analysis of Radon


using Electronic Radon Detector
Arabi Suleiman Abdullahi *
Centre for Energy Research and Training, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

Kasim Ado Sani


Centre for Energy Research and Training, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

Nuruddeen Abubakar
Centre for Energy Research and Training, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

Hauwa'u Kulu Shuaibu


Department of Physics, Bauchi State University, Gadau-Nigeria.
*Corresponding author: saarabi@abu.edu.ng

Keywords

Abstract

Zircon
Flight time/distances
Nigeria
Working level month
Dose

In this study, a setup was designed for routine measurement of radon and thoron exhalation from different
matrices using electronic radon detection device. The method adopted is a 1-day, sniff rapid recovery radon
measurement protocol for long term measurement using Statistical analysis tools that track concentration
averages and uncertainties. The setup was then used to evaluate the effect of flight distance/time on efficiency
of 222Rn (Radon) and 220Rn (Thoron) determination using Zircon sand collected from North Central Nigeria as a
sources of these isotopes. The result obtained shows that there is considerable linear variation in the level of
both 222Rn (Radon) and 220Rn (Thoron) detection as the flight distance/time increases. The linearity of the curve
indicates a decrease in radon and thoron concentration with increases in flight time/distance. However, the
highest value measured for radon and thoron (55,164.9 Bqm-3 and 668,973 Bqm-3) using the setup was obtained
at a flight distance of 80 to 90cm which is an indication of the best distance for routine measurement. At a
flight distance/time 70cm, the result dropped to 585,000 Bqm-3 and 46, 000 Bqm-3(13%) while at a flight
distance/time above 90cm, it dropped to 500,000 Bqm-3 and 43, 010 Bqm-3(26%) and below. Based on
occupational exposure of 2000 hrs/yr, radiological assessment of the zircon sand used indicates a working level
month (WLM) of 68.7 and 833.53, a yearly dose of 4167.64 and 343.67mSv/yr. for radon and thoron,
respectively while radon emanation coefficient of 0.882 was recorded for the zircon sand. These values
indicates that worker in the zircon mining environment are exposed to high radiological risks.

1.

Introduction

222

Rn (Radon) and 220 Rn (Thoron) are radioactive gases that are produced in nature when uranium and thorium in soil break down through
radioactive decay. Radon has many isotopes, but 222Rn and 220Rn (thoron) of the uranium and thorium decay series are of concern because of
their presence in the human environment and the possibility of their health effects on the public [1]. 222Rn (Radon) has a half-life of 3.82 days
while 220Rn (Thoron) has a half-life of only 55.6 seconds.
The main characteristic of 222Rn and 220Rn among other natural radioactive elements is the fact that their behavior is not affected by chemical
processes [2]. In addition, their concentration levels depend strongly on geological and geophysical conditions, as well as on atmospheric
influences such as barometric pressure and rainfall.
Radiation from natural sources account for the majority of human exposure to radiation (figure 1) with radon decay product being the largest
contributor in spite of the increased use of manmade radiation in industries, medical and scientific research centers [1]. Elevated levels of radon
in the indoor environment and environment of work places in many countries have been a concern of public health and hygiene and there has
been a keen interest in studies related to monitoring of radon and the inhalation dose to the public living in that environment [3]. Most of the
radon to which people are exposed emanates from soil and rock. The other sources of significance are building materials, potable water, and
natural gas [4]. High levels of uranium and its decay products in rock and soil, and thorium in monazite sands are the main sources of high
natural background radiations that have been identified in several areas of the world [3].
The levels of radioactivity in soil, water and air are important mainly because of two principal radiological effects. The first is the internal
irradiation of lungs and other organs of the human body by alpha particles emitted by short-lived decay products of 222Rn and 220Rn and the
second is the external irradiation of the body by gamma rays emitted from radio nuclides present in the area [3]. In Europe for example, radon in
the home accounts for about 9% of deaths from lung cancer and 2% of all deaths from cancer [5]. In view of the fact that radon, thoron and their
progeny concentrations contribute the most to the natural radiation dose to general populations, large scale and long-term measurement of radon,
thoron and their progeny concentrations has been receiving considerable attention [6].
In this study, a setup similar to one reported in [7] was designed for routine measurement of radon isotopes in different matrices using electric
radon detection device (RAD7). In this new setup, effort was made to reduce the volume of the vessel because of its effect on travel time, pump
effectiveness, and counting efficiency. The setup was then utilized to study the effect of travel distance/time on the radon isotope analysis.
Zircon sand from a mining site in north central Nigeria was utilized.

Arabi Suleiman Abdullahi *, Kasim Ado Sani, Nuruddeen Abubakar, Hauwa'u Kulu Shuaibu

22

General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

Medicine

Nuclear industry

Buildings/soils

Cosmic rays

Radon

Food/Drinking water
11%

14%

1%
18%

42%

14%

Figure 1. Radiation sources


(source: World Nuclear Association)

Figure 2 was utilized as a source of radon isotopes and at the end of the experiment, radiological details (Working Level Month (WLM),
effective dose and radon emanation coefficient) of the zircon sand utilized were evaluated. The compactness and effective flight distance
determined for the setup are believed to be suitable for analysis radon/thoron exhalation rate from different matrices.

Figure 2. Location map of Jos Plateau area, inset is a map of Nigeria depicting this location (Google Earth)

2.

Materials and methods

2.1 Sample container (vessel)


The sample container is a cubic container made of polyvinylchloride (PVC) with a volume of 0.007m 3. It is a moisture resistant airtight container
whos led is fitted with an outlet tube and an inlet at its lower part (figure 3). The designed sample container portable, filter fitted, transparent
and can accommodate more sample than the recently designed DURRIDGE sample container.
2.2 The setup
The sample container is connected to the sample inlet hole of the instrument via a dry kit (desiccant) that strips off moisture from air coming
from the sample. As the pump from the instrument draws in air into the chamber hosting the detector, the same air is recycled through the outlet
and back into the sample container thereby completing an airtight close loop (figure 3).
2.3 Radon and Thoron measurements
1.46kg of the zircon sand is placed in the sample container and the loop is setup as described in figure 3. The setup is set on a protocol called
sniff mode where both radon and thoron from the samples are sniffed into the detector chamber and their daughter nuclides (216Po and 218Po) are
detected. Each cycle of measurement took twenty four hours before the radon isotopes are evaluated and a total of nine cycles (9 days) were
carried out. The first measurement was for a travel distance (length from vessel inlet to instrument inlet) of 70cm after which this length is
increased with 10cm before another circle of measurement was carried out. This measurement was carried out with increment of travel distance
of 10cm until it reach 150cm and in-between each circle of measurement, the instrument was purged with fresh air to get rid of residual
radon/thoron in the detector chamber before another circle of measurement commenced.

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Evaluation of Efficiency of a Setup Designed for Analysis of Radon using Electronic Radon Detector
General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

2.4.1 Working Level Month (WLM)


For Radon/Thoron exposure; Working Levels (WLs) are any combination of the short-lived radon progeny in one litre of air that results in the
ultimate emission/release of 1.3 x 105 MeV of potential alpha particle energy. The cumulative exposure of an individual exposed at this
concentration over a working month of 170 hours (2,000 working hours per year/12 months per year = approximately 170 hours per month) is
defined as a Working Level Month (WLM) [8], [9], [10]. In this study, WLM was evaluated by assuming 2,000 hours are spent in the mining
work environment per year as detailed in [8].
2.4.2 Radon emanation
The fraction of radon atoms generated from radium decay that are released into a rock or soil pore space is defined as the radon emanation
coefficient (E), or emanating power, of the material. According to Schumann 1993, the emanation coefficient of rocks and soils typically varies
between about 0.05 and 0.70, and an average value for soils is probably between 0.20 and 0.30. Geologic, pedologic, and climatic factors,
including radium content, grain size, Siting of radon parents within soil grains or on grain coatings, and soil moisture conditions, determine the
soil's emanating power and radon transport characteristics [11].
Radon emanation coefficient (E) of the zircon sand utilized in this study was calculated according Ishmori et al; 2013 based on the relation;

E = VC/MR
Where;
V = Volume of sample vessel
C = Radon concentration
M = Mass of sample used
R = Radium content in sample
2.4.3 Effective dose
This is weighted sum of equivalent doses to all relevant tissues and organ with the purpose "to indicate the combination of different doses to
several different tissues in a way that is likely to correlate well with the total of the stochastic effects". The effective dose was calculated based
on 2,000 working hours per year/12 months per year = approximately 170 hours per month using [8] assumption that 150Bq/m3 from radon will
translate to 0.2 WLM and a dose of 1mSv/yr.
The RAD7 uses a solid state alpha detector that converts alpha radiation directly to an electrical signal. It has the ability to electronically
determine the energy of each alpha particle. This makes it possible to immediately distinguish radon from thoron. The RAD7 amplifies, filters,
and sorts the signals according to their strength. In this study, the SNIFF mode was adopted. In SNIFF mode, the RAD7 uses only the polonium218 signal to determine radon concentration, and the polonium-216 signal to determine thoron concentration, ignoring the subsequent and
longer-lived radon daughters. In this way, the RAD7 achieves fast response to changes in radon concentration, and fast recovery from high
concentrations.

Figure 3. (A) sketch and (B) photograph of the experimantal setup

3.

Results and discussion

The protocol adopted for the study is a 1-day, long term rapid sniff radon recovery measurement using Statistical analysis tools that track
concentration averages and uncertainties. Values recorded for radon and thoron flight distance ranging from 70 to 150cm using level increments
of 10cm after each 24hr measurement over nine days are presented in Table 1. Figure 4 shows a typical display of the spectrum showing the
concentration of radon and thoron.

Arabi Suleiman Abdullahi *, Kasim Ado Sani, Nuruddeen Abubakar, Hauwa'u Kulu Shuaibu

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General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

Table 1. Recorded values for radon and thoron and corresponding flight distance and time for nine days
Days
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Flight distance
(cm)
70.5
80.5
90.5
100.5
110.5
120.5
130.5
140.5
150.5

Time
(sec)
2.53*10-3
2.90*10-3
3.30*10-3
3.62*10-3
4.00*10-3
4.34*10-3
4.70*10-3
5.07*10-3
5.43*10-3

Radon
(Bq/m3 )
45364.9
53864.9
55164.9
51764.9
28764.9
40964.9
44364.9
24364.9
35664.9

Thoron
(Bq/m3)
584973
664973
668973
586973
365973
468973
492973
459973
412973

The flight distance/time experiment conducted was utilized to calibrate the setup for routine measurement of radon and thoron in rocks, soils,
sediments, whole bricks, tile, interlocks and artifacts. The results obtained showed that, at a flight distance of less than 80cm, parts of radon and
thoron daughters (218Po and 216Po) that would have been detected were circulated fastest between the sample vessel and the detector chamber and
as result, not all were detected, and before these isotope were recycled the second time, they might have decayed into other daughter isotopes
owing to their short half-life of 3.1min and 150ms for222Rn and 220Rn as 218Po and 216Po, respectively (figure 5).
Also, at a flight distance above 90cm, the flight distance/time becomes too long, such that some of the isotope would have decayed to their
daughter isotopes before reaching the detector chamber. At this distance, the circulation action of the pump becomes a bit less effective as a
result of the distance increase which translates to increase in total volume of the travel path and slow or lower flight velocity (figure 6).
The best flight distance/time determined for the setup is at 80 90cm. At this distance, the pump action is most effective for measurement and
allows moderate flight velocity for the isotope to travel and be detected within the chamber. Best radon and thoron counts were obtained and
evaluated at these distances (figure 5).
Because of its very short half-life, variation of thoron values recorded along the 70 150cm flight distance was very sharp, while for radon, it is
a gradual decline as depicted on figure 7 and this is attributed to the wide variation in their progenies half-life of 3.8min and 56sec for 218Po and
216
Po, respectively.

Figure 4. Display of the concentration of Radon and Thoron and spectrum

25

Evaluation of Efficiency of a Setup Designed for Analysis of Radon using Electronic Radon Detector
General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

60000
y = -266.17x + 71665
R = 0.446

Concentration (Bq/m3)

50000

40000

30000

Radon
Concentration
(Bq/m3)

20000

Linear (Radon
Concentration
(Bq/m3))

10000

0
0

50

100

150

200

Flight distance (cm)

Figure 5. Flight distance vs. concentration of radon

800000
y = -2955x + 849501
R = 0.5576

Concentration (Bq/m3)

700000
600000
500000

Thoron
Concentration
(Bq/m3)

400000
300000

Linear (Thoron
Concentration
(Bq/m3))

200000
100000
0
0

100

200

Flight distance (cm)

Figure 6. Flight distance vs. concentration of thoron

The coefficient of determination (R2) values for radon is 0.446 and that of thoron is 0.557. This means that for radon, there is about 45%
certainty of the effect of concentration in relation to flight time. However, for thoron, the values of R2 slightly increases to 0.557 which means
the effect of flight time on the concentration changes is depicted much here, which is about 56%.

Arabi Suleiman Abdullahi *, Kasim Ado Sani, Nuruddeen Abubakar, Hauwa'u Kulu Shuaibu

26

General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

800000

Concentration (Bq/m3)

700000

Radon
Concentration
(Bq/m3)

600000
500000

Thoron
Concentration
(Bq/m3)

400000
300000

Linear (Radon
Concentration
(Bq/m3))

200000
100000

Expon. (Radon
Concentration
(Bq/m3))

0
0

100
200
Flight distance (cm)

Figure 7. Compared flight distance vs. concentration of radon and thoron

Other factors that effects radon and thoron measurements using the setup are relative humidity within the environment of measurement, porosity
of samples, and moisture content of sample among others, though these factor are not instrument connected and for environmental humidity, the
air tightness of the setup will be an advantage for reducing/eliminating its effect on measurement results. The designed setup is good for radon
and thoron exhalation and radon emanation measurements/evaluation in whole bricks (small size type), in rocks, soils, sediments, ceramics, tiles
and artifacts.

Concentration (Bq/m3)

800000
600000
400000

Rn
Th

200000
0
70.5
80.5
90.5
Flight Distance (cm)

Figure 8. Concentration of radon and thoron compared between flight distances 70.5 to 90.5cm

Concentration (Bq/m3)

600000

400000
Rn
200000

Th

0
120.5

130.5

140.5

Flight Distance (cm)


Figure 9. Concentration of radon and thoron between flight distances 120.5 to 140.5cm

27

Evaluation of Efficiency of a Setup Designed for Analysis of Radon using Electronic Radon Detector
General Scientific Researches Vol(3), No (4), December, 2015.

Based on occupational exposure of 2000 hrs/yr, radiological assessment of the zircon sand used indicates a working level month (WLM) of 68.7
and 833.53, a yearly dose of 4167.64 and 343.67 mSvmSv/yr for radon and thoron, respectively while radon emanation coefficient of 0.882 was
recorded for the zircon sand. These values indicates that worker in the zircon mining environment are exposed to high radiological risks.

4.

Conclusion

The effect of flight distance/time on radon and thoron measurement using a setup designed for routine measurement of radon/thoron exhalation
rate by different matrices has been determined. The best flight distance for routine measurement was obtained at 80-90cm. It was also
determined that zircon sand utilized in the study has a very high radon and thoron exhalation rate and emanation coefficient. Evaluation of
radiological hazard associated with the zircon sand indicates a high radiological risk to miners working on the zircon mining site. The setup has
an advantage of air tightness, accommodating whole sizes of some bricks, and it is moisture proof.

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