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OSU's Optically Stimulated Luminescence technique takes flight

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Oklahoma State University researchers have been working for the past few years to develop a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence to measure astronauts' radiation exposure during space flight.

NASA funded the research led by Dr. Stephen W. S. McKeever, vice president for research and technology transfer, along with Dr. Eduardo Yukihara, assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Ramona Gaza, former graduate student now working for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The result of these efforts is that NASA used the OSL technique developed by OSU in badges (known as "dosimeters”) worn by astronauts aboard the latest Discovery mission, STS-114. Research results presented by the OSU team at international meetings and in discussions with NASA convinced the NASA Space Radiation Analysis Group to use OSU’s OSL technique as part of the radiation measurement “badges” worn by astronauts on the Discovery mission. Gaza is currently setting up OSL facilities for SRAG at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The OSL technique uses luminescence emitted from a radiation-sensitive material to measure radiation exposure. The material used by the OSU group was aluminum oxide, and NASA needed to modify the astronaut dosimeter badges to accommodate the aluminum oxide materials. The radiation-sensitive aluminum oxide is made in Stillwater at the Crystal Growth Division of Landauer, a Chicago-based company that mass produces aluminum oxide crystals for about 1.5 million customers.

NASA accepted the first prototype modifications made to the badges by OSU’s physics department using OSU’s design. Mike Lucas made additional parts for NASA to include in the radiation dosimeter badges as part of the OSL system. NASA assembled parts shipped to NASA for the new badges for use by astronauts on Shuttle mission STS-114. NASA will use OSL and aluminum oxide as part of their astronaut dosimeter badges in future flights.

In addition, as part of a large multinational consortium to estimate radiation doses inside the human body while in space, the OSU team is participating in an experiment called MATROSHKA, which is currently flying on the International Space Station. Later this year, samples from MATROSHKA will return to Earth on the Soyuz spacecraft for analysis.

For more information about OSU’s research programs, contact the Office of the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer at 405-744-6501 or visit our website at

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