Improve the detection of radon gas in air and soil

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The Institute of Energy Technologies (INTE) is working on the TraceRadon project to study how to improve the quality of measurements of radon gas in air and soil, to better control their impact on health and the environment.

Radon is a natural gas that comes from the radioactive decay of uranium that is present in rocks and soil. It is the main source of exposure of the population to natural radiation. Radon is also used to locate, trace and quantify the source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the Radon Tracer Method (RTM) and models of atmospheric dispersion. Currently, there are no tools to measure this gas in low concentration in the air nor to measure radon exhalation from the soil correctly.

The TraceRadon project will provide new sources of measurement, more sensitive reference instruments and effective methodologies to quantify the concentration of radon gas in the air and radon exhalation from the soil, which are also required to validate models of flows of radon in Europe.

This technology will be used to standardise instruments and validate models of the flow of radon, which will be compared with other models and through intense field campaigns. New radon gas detectors that are constructed as part of the project will be tested with various field measurements in Germany, Italy, France and England. The tools and instruments developed in the area of the project will be made available to atmospheric control networks such as the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) and networks of environmental radioactivity control.

The project is part of the EMPIR programme that is cofunded as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, with a budget of 2.4 million euros. The project is expected to take until 2023. Other participants in addition to the UPC are the University of Cantabria and a further 16 institutions and research centres at European universities in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, France, United Kingdom, Serbia, Romania and Italy.

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