Viridian Consultants is an award-winning innovation company, with a long history of working with the nuclear sector which has now turned its attention to asbestos. The team has been evaluating its laser technology on ACMs such as asbestos cement and AIB to see whether asbestos fibres can be collected using their sampling tool, ViridiScope.
Over the past seven years the company has been developing the laser sampler for concrete and other radioactively contaminated materials in nuclear decommissioning, with support from Innovate UK, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Sellafield Ltd. This novel technology has been deployed on nuclear sites across the UK, including Trawsfynydd and Hinkley Point B nuclear power stations and is now being used in the USA.
MD, Kym Jarvis, says, ‘We had been wondering whether asbestos would be collected unchanged if we used our laser sampler. The science suggested it would, so we were delighted when we received government funding to test our theory. We can now confirm that asbestos fibres are transferred unaltered into the collection pod.
Our experimental work was carried out over six months during the Covid-19 pandemic. A range of ACMs provided by the industry were tested in our North Wales workshop using a standard sampling procedure. The collection pods were sent to an accredited laboratory, where chrysotile and amosite were identified in the appropriate samples. Blanks were run between collections to ensure there was no cross contamination and the original ACMs were tested by the laboratory to confirm our results.
The main advantage of using ViridiScope is safety because the sample of ACM is collected under vacuum with no dust created. The sampling head can be used manually but equally well on a robotic system, 20 metres from the control system and collection station. This means it can reach inaccessible spots at height, in drains, pipes and other hazardous areas. Sufficient material is collected in just two minutes, meaning many samples per hour. The pods are sealed and ready for transporting to the laboratory, where the sample can be removed and analysed by the usual accredited procedures. There is no dust created during the process and therefore it is inherently safer, faster and cleaner than the existing methods of sampling currently available for asbestos.
The nuclear industry has described ViridiScope’s ability to sample asbestos in highly radioactive areas as ‘game-changing’. Viridian is looking forward to deploying its laser technology for asbestos outside the nuclear sector this year with equal success.