IoT Ready Radiation Dosimeters for Faster, More Efficient and Effective Sterilization
An Innovation with far-reaching implications to overcome public health challenges
In the past few months, our lives have been upended on a global level by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a test for us globally, on both personal and business levels, to overcome and adapt our behavior to combat this virus. This pandemic has heavily stressed the supply chains and the manufacturing of medical supplies such as PPE (personal protection equipment) and food products. It has also surfaced few areas that can be improved.
COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased need for development and manufacturing of solutions dedicated to testing as well as sterilization against viruses and other germs. Sterilization, which is the process to eliminate or destroy organic or living organisms such as fungi, bacteria, germs and viruses, is relevant and material for many products in the medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food industries. It is one of the final steps used before shipping the products to the market in order to make sure they are ready to be used and consumed after they are put on the shelves. Irradiation, which is basically blasting products with electromagnetic waves such UV, Gamma and X-Ray, is the most common sterilization processes used in this industry. It is projected to grow to $13B by 2024 due to its safety (yes safety), versatility, and reliability. Don’t worry, your food will not become radioactive from this process.
A key device used in this process is a radiation dosimeter that measures the doses of radiation delivered. Dosimeters have many uses throughout the irradiation sterilization process but mainly to make sure the products have been exposed to the correct amount of radiation to kill the harmful germs or viruses. Commonly available dosimeters use a process that is based on physical changes to the materials such as poly-methylmethacrylate (PMMA) that changes its light absorption due to radiation exposure, or chemical changes such as alanine amino acid which releases free radicals at levels that are proportional to the radiation exposure levels. These two types of dosimeters require additional manual lab testing and measurement using either Spectrophotometer or EPR Spectrometer to read and verify the doses. Another product used to verify radiation exposure level is a label or a tag that changes its color due to the exposure.
Compared to these methods, CMOS based radiation sensors and detectors represent a true technology disruption for this market due to their many advantages including flexibility, data retention, multiple-use, ultra-small size, instantaneous reading and verification of the doses, and seamless integration into IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
This innovation is based on Floating-Gate (FG) transistors that are sensitive to radiation exposure. Each transistor (or an array of transistors) is charged to a specific voltage level and being discharged by the radiation in an amount proportional to the radiation dose absorbed.
Tower Semiconductor’s advanced non-imaging sensor technology provides unique solutions serving these specific needs. Our Floating-gate transistors are based on single-poly Non-Volatile-Memory (NVM) technology that provides various advantages including ultra-low power, high-temperature operation for readout and monitoring, long stability of charge retention, and high accuracy.
Below is a comparison between this innovative CMOS-based radiation sensor and the common dosimeters used for this industry. It is clear that the FG dosimeters are superior and represent the next generation that offers faster sterilization process setup and dose mapping, readout, verification, multiple exposures, and digital traceability.
This technology also enables a significant improvement on the efficiency and speed of re-sterilization processes meeting the demands for PPE supplies; simply put, wash out the used or expired PPE and other products from germs and reuse them. Similarly, CMOS sensors can also be used in other applications such as radiation monitor badges for medical personnel or in UV disinfection to kill viruses and germs in hospitals, rooms, and cabins.
Tower Semiconductor’s distinctive, best-in-class sensors platforms allow the manufacturing of multiple types of sensors including temperature, gas, humidity, magnetic, UV, and radiation sensors. These platforms, based on extensive research and development activity, offer many advantages in various monitoring applications in the industrial, medical, automotive, and consumer markets and are well suited to support the fast-growing IoT sensor fusion in harsh environment.
Senior Sales Director, Sensors BU
AJ ElJallad joined Tower Semiconductor in 2019 and is responsible for the CMOS-Image-Sensors sales and business development in North America and WW responsibility for business development of the Non-Imaging-Sensors. He has more than 21 years of experience working in the semiconductor industry in a variety of executive disciplines including sales and business development, corporate marketing, product design, applications engineering, and corporate strategy.