Oak Ridge scientist develops anti-berrylium dust-rag

Published 7 March 2007

Special coating seen as a cure for industrial inhalation problems, and technology may eventually aid in large-scale radiation clean-ups; Y-12 National Security Complex conducts tests but needs help bringing it to market;

Dusting has never been so easy. In a move to control clean room conditions — one that might eventually have applications for dirty bomb clean-up operations — a nuclear lab technician has developed a “dust rag” capable of picking up beryllium particles twenty times smaller than what is detectable with the naked eye. In fact, other dangerous or worrisome particles made from metal, ceramic, fibers, plastics, radiological contaminant can also be wiped away by this über Swiffer duster, making it a strong entry into the industrial clean-up market no matter the contaminant. It all comes down to a special coating, one inventor Ron Simandl of the Oak Ridge national laboratory is keeping close to the vest. (Did we mention the coating can be appled to clothes as well?)

The “negligible-residue non-tacky tack cloth” has recently been tested in the Y-12 National Security Complex, where it is being used to pick up beryllium particles. Beryllium, which is lightweight yet strong enough to help manufacture things ranging from golf clubs to nuclear bombs, is dangerous when inhaled (and indeed, the government has already paid several million dollars in compensation to employees for such sufferings.) The hope is that the cloth can help reduce industrial inhalation incidents, but there are also commercial applications in the allergies market. Still, it will be a while before it is being used on a wide-scale basis. “We will need a technical champion before we can find a business champion because it is kind of hard to comprehend that it can actually do what he says it can do,” said Marilyn Giles of Y-12. “But it would not be a very expensive process to put in place for a company who already does this.”

-read more in this AP report