To address the current national emergency, U.S. entities may be eligible to license select Sandia intellectual property at no cost for a limited time. Learn more.

Search/Browse Tech

Colorimetric Radiation Detection


A low-cost, color-changing dye for radiation detection that eliminates the need for solvents or external heating and may be printed or painted for dosimetry in versatile applications

Colorimetric radiation detectors offer an alternative to challenges posed by traditional dosimeters. Traditional dosimeters, such as radiographic films, scintillators, and ion chambers have limited versatility due to the need for expensive and complex operations, expertise in radiation signal interpretation and expensive single point detectors. Traditional photometric dyes also lack sensitivity, only function in the liquid state, and require hazardous solvents to identify the quenched state of fluorescence.


Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico have invented a photometric dye that can change color based on absorption level when exposed to a certain amount of radiation. Unlike commercially available products in the market, this dye does not require submersion in hazardous solvents, enabling greater versatility in application. The dye can be used as a low cost, easy to scale ‘painted’ or ‘printed’ scintillator material which allows for coverage of small to very large areas, resulting in a game-changing impact on radiation detection and protection. 
This soluble scintillator material can be dried and adhered to a variety of surfaces allowing for covertly or overtly observed radiation detection at any time. The material could be applied to larger surfaces, such as tunnels, bridges, airports, and office buildings. Smaller surface applications could include printing onto personal identification cards. Once the dye is applied, color changes can be visually observed from a range of yellow to gray, depending on the level of radiation exposure. Once dried, the dye emits a yellow luminescent color. Then, upon exposure to radiation, the luminescence is chemically quenched, thus turning into a gray color. This simple, efficient, and mobile dosimeter eliminates the need for external heating and additional photomultiplier detectors to interpret fluorescence. The ease of use and interpretation makes this detection method a valuable technology across the dosimeter market.


  • Painted dye can be applied to large surface areas 
  • Eliminates need for hazardous solvents 
  • Exists as liquid or solid dye 
  • Printable on absorbent materials, such as paper 
  • Ease of use
  • Low cost to manufacture

Applications and Industries

  • Personal dosimeters for radiographers and oncologists in the medical field 
  • Personal and large-scale dosimeter- utilized in nuclear power plant industry 
  • Environmental dosimeter- measures radioactivity from fossil fuels, natural radioactivity, and cosmic radiation
Technology IDSD# 14672AvailabilityAvailablePublished02/20/2020Last Updated02/20/2020