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RFID System Helps Track Sensitive Materials

An RFID system has been developed for management of radioactive and other high-risk materials.

Radio-frequency-identification (RFID) technology is familiar to most users for its use as the embedded “chip” that serves as a security device for many electronics-based applications. The technology is now also being applied by Argonne National Laboratory to ensure the accountability and security of sensitive materials, including radioactive and hazardous materials.

The ARG-US RFID-based electronic system developed by Argonne is a remote-sensing system for monitoring and tracking nuclear and other sensitive materials. The system uses battery-powered RFID tag sensors to remotely monitor the vital parameters of packages containing sensitive materials. The system was originally developed to support the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) in modernizing the lifecycle management of nuclear materials, in the process providing enhanced security, safety, and sustainability.

The basic design of the system is a three-chamber module, with the main chamber housing a motherboard and antenna, and additional chambers holding a 10-year battery power supply and a dosimeter printed-circuit board (PCB). The form factor of the system is designed to be compatible with a wide range of packaging formats. It has also undergone radiation endurance testing, ensuring good long-term reliability even when in close proximity to radioactive materials. The suite of sensors within the ARG-US system includes seal integrity, radiation, temperature, humidity, and shock sensors. It features a flexible design that can be expanded to include additional sensors.

The ARG-US RFID system is supported by several specialized software applications, including for on-site monitoring and for active monitoring while transporting sensitive materials. The system has undergone extensive testing at various sites and has shown the capability to monitor thousands of drums of sensitive materials via secure RF/Ethernet communications links. Any unusual actions regarding stored or transported materials will trigger an alarm for immediate action. The information about the material in drums is stored in data tags and archived in servers for convenient access and reference.

See “RFID System for Management of High-Risk Materials,” Tech Briefs, Vol. 41, No. 8, August 2017, p. 38.

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