Routine sterilization is vital to many industries. Whether for single use medical devices that rely on terminal sterility in their final packaging, or biologically contaminated waste which cannot be safely disposed of by other means, techniques for effective sterilization are essential. For some items, an autoclave using high pressure steam may be one viable option. However, package design or the hazard in question may prevent effective sterilization by autoclave. In such cases one may consider the use of Ethylene Oxide (EtO), which easily penetrates through packaging to sterilize goods. The downside, however, is that EtO is a known mutagen and carcinogen. As such, human safety and prevention of environmental release are valid concerns both during and after treatment. If one wishes to avoid using EtO, irradiation is the likely alternative. For this purpose, highly radioactive sources may be used for their ability to uniformly penetrate packaging and provide terminal sterility.
Although remarkably effective in this application, concerns exist over weaponization of these radioactive sources into radiological dispersion devices (RDDs), or dirty bombs. To address this concern, machine produced radiation in the form of electron beams or x-rays may be substituted. These accelerator based sources of radiation have multiple advantages when compared to radioactive sources. Due to the nature of machine produced radiation, electrons or x-rays are only present when needed. Therefore, the machine cannot be repurposed into an RDD, or dirty bomb. Furthermore, the energy, intensity, and shape of the radiation source can be varied as desired by the accelerator operator. Through this, it is possible to decrease processing time by selecting an appropriate scan area and dose rate.
Using Niowave’s current fleet of superconducting accelerators, sterilization of several commercial products has already been demonstrated. In the near term, Niowave intends on establishing a commercial sterilization facility based upon it's own superconducting electron linear accelerators (SELs) which can handle truckload quantities of routine product. The ultimate goal, however, is to establish multiple facilities across the United States based upon this technology. Such systems offer a cost-effective solution for medical, industrial, and municipal waste sterilization. In addition to sterilization applications, the same accelerator systems can be used for a range of advanced manufacturing techniques. These include crosslinking of polymer wire (as pictured right), chain scission to more easily powderize material, curing of complex polymer parts, and gemstone coloring.