If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Drop & Run

by Craig Bettenhausen
April 22, 2020


A metal rod reads "Drop & Run" along with info about the cobalt-60 it contains.
Credit: LANL

What do you do if you find a cobalt-60 radiation source? “If you sprint away immediately, you might not die,” says Katie Mummah, a nuclear engineer and grad student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The history of this sample from 1963 is unclear, but 60Co’s intense gamma ray emissions are used in radiotherapy, sterilization, and structural analysis. Careful shielding protects organisms that don’t want a lethal dose of radiation.

A group of dummy radiation sources.
Credit: LANL
This group of dummy radiation sources are used for training, so "no photographers were harmed in the taking of these photos," says Justin Griffin of OSRP.

Starting at 3540 Curies nearly 60 years ago, this particular sample today probably would throw off about 2 Curies, says archaeologist Ellis Monahan (@GirlArchaeo). That’s not too bad from a meter away, but a real problem if you put it in your pocket, she says.

This sample, about 10 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter, is in the collection of the Off-Site Recovery Program based at Los Alamos National Lab. If you ever stumble on some stray radioactive material, give them a call at (505) 667-7920 and they’ll come get it, worldwide.

Credit: Los Alamos National Lab

Do science. Take pictures. Win money. Enter our photo contest here.

Click here to see more Chemistry in Pictures.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.