Radiotracers are used widely in industry to investigate processes and highlight the causes of inefficiency.They are particularly useful where process optimization can bring material benefits, such as in the transport of sediments.
The technique allows critical components to be inspected for internal defects without damage.X-ray sets can be used when electric power is available and the object to be scanned can be taken to the X-ray source and radiographed.Instead of the bulky machine needed to produce X-rays, all that is needed to produce effective gamma rays is a small pellet of radioactive material in a sealed titanium capsule.The capsule is placed on one side of the object being screened, and some photographic film is placed on the other side.Small concentrations of short-lived isotopes can be detected whilst no residues remain in the environment.
By adding small amounts of radioactive substances to materials used in various processes it is possible to study the mixing and flow rates of a wide range of materials, including liquids, powders, and gases and to locate leaks.
Nucleonic gauges are also used in the coal industry.
The height of the coal in a hopper can be determined by placing high energy gamma sources at various heights along one side with focusing collimators directing beams across the load.
Fixed gauges are typically used in production facilities – mines, mills, oil and gas platforms – as a means of controlling and monitoring quality from a production process.
For example, in the North Sea, fixed nucleonic gauges are sometimes deployed to determine conditions within separator vessels and to monitor residual oil content within separated gas streams.
Radiotracers are also used in the oil and gas industry to help determine the extent of oil fields.