007 Gadgets: Polonium Detector

A polonium detector is a circuit, which detects polonium radiation through electronic means. Currently there are many detectors available on the internet, however most detectors tend to be very large, as polonium is one of the hardest to detect. Polonium has a very short half-life, which means that it becomes undetectable within hours. It is of course impossible with current technology to have a pen-sized gadget that could detect it, although a pen-sized gadget may be able to detect other stronger forms of radiation.

Comrade Cocktail

The Comrade Cocktail is a drink, which usually comes from Russia with love, and contains Vodka and some secret ingredients. However, if served by a KGB agent, then it may also contain other things, which will make your hair stand on edge and fall off. It is a drink to die for, as James Bond would say.

This is a detection circuit for the discerning diplomat or 007 who just received a call from the KGB “inviting” him out for a “drink”, and he cannot figure out whether to go or not. It is such an inconvenience when the culprits poison the drinks and get away scot-free. Although probably used by many secret agencies, it tends to be the signature hallmark of the KGB as they usually use it on their own ex-employees as a retirement bonus.

I was inspired to design this detection circuit after watching too many James Bond films and hearing on the news about the material being -- allegedly, with 99.999 % certainty -- used by the KGB and how difficult it was to detect it. The subject received great media coverage for over a month, and it occurred to me that there might just be a way to detect it.

Having watched the BBC1 news on this subject, when our own British citizen was fatally poisoned, it seriously made me realise how important our democracy was and how important a gadget like this could be.


The Solution

Polonium has a very short half-life, and within hours, it becomes un-detectable, same as the half-life that uses it. Accurate detection is very difficult to achieve, even in the best of cases, and would normally require a large mainframe computer for the statistical calculations, however I had something better in mind, a small microcontroller with more than enough processing power to calculate the half-life.

The detector has to be a small pocket sized gadget, with a simple readout. Once dipped into the drink, it would provide a simple readout whether it was safe or not to drink it.

Tests / Conclusion

In tests, the detector accurately identified alpha radiation near fire detectors; however, this by no means proves that it could detect polonium. In the end, I decided not to continue developing this as I had much better things to do with my time such as my hi-fi valve amplifier, which can be seen in the Electronic Engineering section of my website.

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This Article Continues...

007 Gadgets: Polonium Detector
Polonium - Po
Ionisation Chamber
High Gain Darlington Pair – Circuit
ATtiny Microcontroller for Processing
1.5 V to 5 V Converter Power Supply Chip
Polonium Detector Conceptual Design
Polonium Detector Schematics