ABU at the PUFFIn Training Workshop in Norfolk, Virginia

ABU at the PUFFIn Training Workshop in Norfolk, Virginia

By Dr Abdulsalam I. Galadima

Radiations are used in cable manufacturing to improve insulation properties of polymeric materials, sterilization of polymeric medical devices, food preservation, etc. Gamma radiation facilities are widely used for this purpose. The irradiation is done within a dose rate that is sufficient enough to effectively do the job without destroying the inherent structure of the materials. Considering the safety question of radioactive materials, attention is gradually being shifted to electron beams for this purpose since they are safer.

As pleasing as this may sound, there is, however, little knowledge of the interaction of electrons with polymeric materials. There are ongoing efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to generate data on the interaction of electrons with polymeric materials. One such effort was an IAEA call, in 2020, for a Coordinated Research Project to generate a comprehensive database on the interaction of electrons with polymeric materials for application in medical devices under varying conditions. We (the Materials Physics Research Group) submitted a working proposal for the call which returned unsuccessful because our budget was more than what the project could accommodate.

As a result of concerted efforts, software was recently developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in collaboration with the IAEA and the Office of Radiological Security (ORS) of the United States Department of Energy (DEO), called PUFFIn (Penelope-based User-Friendly Fast Interface). It is for radiation dose calculation for irradiated polymers. The interface used PENELOPE to calculate the Dose Uniformity Ratio (DUR). It essentially creates a geometry of both hard and soft material, simulates the radiation source, and the distance between the source and target, irradiates it, and does the required calculation.

Meanwhile, the scientific substance of our “unsuccessful” proposal of 2020 got us into the IAEA database of those working in the area of polymer irradiation. As a result of that the then group leader, Prof. Amoka, got selected by the IAEA for the maiden PUFFIn training in March 2024. 16 participants were selected across the world by the IAEA, fully funded by US/DOE/ORS, to participate in the hands-on training on how to use the software.

Coincidentally, most of the 16 invited participants were materials scientists studying the interaction of radiation with their materials. This brand new software was unveiled at the workshop on Saturday 16th March, 2024 with the 16 participants being its first lucky users. It is a free software that can be shared conditionally and with permission from PNNL.

In 2020, two of our MSc students worked on the neutron irradiation of Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), a polymer for medical applications, and Epoxy, a polymer for HV insulation. A PhD student is currently working on Gamma irradiation of some polymeric materials and their composites under varying conditions in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.

The newly acquired software can simulate electrons, X-rays, and Gamma beams. It will add value to our ongoing work in ABU by simulating irradiated polymeric materials and performing dose calculations. It will also help as a guide in general samples’ irradiation thereby creating a new line of research in the study of polymeric materials for medical and industrial applications in ABU.

Congratulations to Prof. Amoka, the MPRG, the Department of Physics, and the entire university community for this

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