The EAI SuperGel decontamination technology, developed and commercialized in cooperation with Argonne National Laboratory, is a chemical process that involves the topical application of a single decontamination solution to treat various substrates bearing radiological contamination. The EAI SuperGel can remove radioactive cesium, cobalt, strontium, actinides and other contamination from porous structures, such as brick and concrete, which are notoriously hard to clean, as well as contamination from metal surfaces. The technology focuses on rapid response—capturing as much of the contamination as possible, as quickly as possible, and filling a technology gap immediately.
The system consists of engineered nanoparticles and a super-absorbent polymer gel, which work together to clean buildings and surfaces exposed to radioactive materials. The polymer “SuperGel” that absorbs the contamination is similar to the absorbent material found in disposable diapers. When exposed to a wetting agent, the polymers form a kind of structural “scaffold” that allows the gel to absorb great amounts of liquid.
The amount of contamination removed depends on the characteristics of the contaminated structure—its age, type of material, whether painted or unpainted—and the radioactive isotope involved. Removal rates have ranged from roughly 80 to nearly 100 percent.
The blended solution contains no hazardous components regarding flammability or reactivity (as per 40 CFR 261) and has no components that would classify them as hazardous for disposal under TCLP testing. As a result, the waste stream from a project can be characterized based on the contaminants that were removed. Waste may be handled by solidification, incineration or evaporation.
The technology follows a simple, three-step process:
- Application: Spray applicators apply a wetting agent and a super-absorbent gel onto the contaminated surface.
- Reaction: The wetting agent causes the bound radioactivity to re-suspend in the pores. The super-absorbent polymer gel suctions the contamination out of the pores and it becomes fixed in the engineered nanoparticles that sit in the gel.
- Cleanup: The gel is vacuumed and dehydrated, with only a small amount of radioactive waste remaining for disposal.
A key benefit of the SuperGel technology is that it leaves structures intact. Contaminated objects were typically demolished since they could not be cleaned. Because EAI’s SuperGel system preserves surfaces, monuments and buildings are not defaced during decontamination. The SuperGel technology can be used to:
- Reduce radiation levels to allow reoccupation or resumption of use
- Decontaminate structures for unrestricted access
- Convert liquid radioactive waste to stabilized solids suitable for direct disposal