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Industrial Uses

Among industries that use radioactive materials in their processes and products are automobile and aircraft manufacturers, mining and oil companies, and construction companies.

Radiation Is Widely Used in Industry

Today, practically every industry uses radiation in some way. Manufacturers use radioisotopes to improve the quality of goods in thousands of industrial facilities around the world.

Radiation loses energy as it passes through substances. Industry has used radioisotopes to develop highly sensitive gauges to measure the thickness and density of many materials. It also has used radioisotopes as imaging devices to inspect finished goods for weaknesses and flaws.

Manufacturers commonly use small amounts of radioisotopes as tracers in process materials. The tracers make it possible to track leakage from piping systems and monitor the rate of engine wear and corrosion of processing equipment. They also make it possible to observe the velocity of materials through pipes and to gauge the efficiency of filtration systems. 

Radioactive materials also are used in industry to inspect metal parts and welds for defects; to measure, monitor and control the thickness of sheet metal, textiles, paper napkins, newspaper, plastics, photographic film and other products; to calibrate instruments; to manufacture ceramics and glassware; and to generate heat or power for remote weather stations, space satellites and other special applications.

Industries that use radioactive materials include:

  • the automobile industry, to test the quality of steel in vehicles

  • aircraft manufacturers, to check for flaws in jet engines

  • mining and petroleum companies, to locate and quantify oil, natural gas and mineral deposits

  • can manufacturers, to obtain the proper thickness of tin and aluminum

  • pipeline companies, to look for defects in welds

  • construction crews, to gauge the density of road surfaces and subsurfaces.