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May 17, 2018 | Nanopix, the world’s smallest gamma camera

nanopixThe world's smallest gamma camera was developed to enable Orano to map hot cells at its nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague, France.

The Nanopix gamma camera is half the size and ten times lighter than its predecessor, the Gampix, making it the most compact gamma camera in its category. The Nanopix was developed by List*, a CEA Tech institute, which had previously developed the Gampix camera. Gamma imaging, which has the capacity to generate images of radioactivity from a distance, is frequently used in nuclear plant decommissioning projects.

Orano needed to be able to map sources of radioactivity in particularly contaminated hot cells—a task that requires a camera that can pass through holes just eight centimeters in diameter. It took three years of research and development to miniaturize the electronics (detection chip) and packaging. The researchers also eliminated some of the Gampix camera's mechanical components. The result—the Nanopix—is just eight centimeters in diameter and five centimeters thick. It is also lightweight at just 268 grams. And, despite its tiny form factor, the Nanopix performs just as well as its bulkier predecessor.

A prototype of the Nanopix was tested and validated on parts of Orano's La Hague site undergoing decontamination. Development work is ongoing, with the goal of integrating embedded intelligence close to the sensor to pre-process data at the detector head. Future plans include automating measurement and giving the camera its own electrical power supply. Ultimately, the camera could be integrated into a terrestrial robot or airborne drone.

*List earned the prestigious Institut Carnot seal in 2006 (Institut Carnot TN@UPSaclay).