Towards a low cost lead assay technique for drinking water using CMOS sensors

Alexander Deisting

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article


An estimated 26 million people in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of lead exposure and there is no safe threshold for lead ingestion. Radio assay methods are not easily accessible in regions at risk, therefore a low cost and easy to use sensor is desirable. Pb occurs together with traces of radioisotopes with decay energies in the range of $10$ to several 100 keV and beyond. Such energies are accessible in silicon sensors. We have tested a scientific CMOS (Neo 5.5 sCMOS), optimised for optical wavelengths, as gamma detector for radiation in the range of 0 to a few 10 keV. We find a minimal detectable 241Am decay rate of 20 Bq for a <1.4 h measurement. Optimising our analysis software will potentially enable detecting lower rates in the same measurement time. We established that the Neo 5.5 sCMOS allows to measure a spectrum of $^{241}\textrm{Am}$ decay lines. In addition we show that it is possible to enhance the concentration of radioisotopes in water when reducing the water's volume by boiling. The knowledge gained using the scientific CMOS sensor will be transferred to commercial silicon sensors as the chips in smart phones.

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