Effects of electron-beam irradiation on nonfood materials

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Effects of Electron Beam Irradiation on Nonfood Substances

Initial Beam Effects Summary
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Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceuticals respond differently to e-beam irradiation based on their structure and the radiation stability that such structure implies. Since anthrax destruction requires a fairly high dose, due to the inherent radiation resistance of the anthrax spores, it is likely that many pharmaceuticals will show a reduction in their efficacy and/or stability.

Smart Cards, Chips: In general, controlled applications of low dose e-beam irradiation have been successfully used in semiconductor manufacturing to increase switching speeds as an alternative to gold doping. High dose effects are expected to be deleterious. Specifically, with respect to the effect of higher-dose e-beam irradiation on Smart Cards, in a 1997 Bellcore study, researchers discovered that applying ionizing radiation to a smart card's embedded chip can make it vulnerable to reverse engineering, allowing the data on the chips to be stolen. The radiation is apparently likely to cause voltages inside the card to fluctuate, thus causing code execution faults and rendering it vulnerable to the mathematical techniques used by cryptographers to extract information stored in the card, including the key used to authenticate the legitimacy of that card.

Data Storage: Irradiating magnetic data storage media (e.g., floppy disks, data tapes, VHS tapes) will erase their data, whereas irradiating digital storage devices (e.g., CD's) will not. Some data suggests that not all credit card magnetic strips may be negatively impacted. In terms of physical properties (e.g., warpage, tensile properties) of the media, CD's and DVD's are typically made of polycarbonate, a radiation-resistant polymer (in the type of dose range being used for anthrax). However, polycarbonate-based materials, including some eyeglass lenses, will develop coloration, typically of the yellow/orange/brown variety.

Photo Film: E-beam irradiation will, in fact, expose unprocessed photographic film in a similar manner as sunlight. However, unlike sunlight, highly energetic electrons have the ability to penetrate even opaque packaging materials and affect their contents. Developed negatives are likely to show coloration, typically of the yellow/orange/brown variety, upon irradiation.

Glass and Gemstones: Irradiation will produce coloration of glass and gemstones, the exact color and intensity being dependent on the nature of the mineral impurities within the matrix. E-beam irradiation is currently used commercially to convert colorless topaz to deep blue using very high doses. At lower dose levels, most glass/crystal will turn a shade of gold or brown.

Heat Generation: Heat effects of e-beam irradiation are dependent on dose and the inherent specific heat of the material in question. For example, polyethylene irradiated to doses high enough to deactivate anthrax would heat up by about 17 degrees C.

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