Chula’s Faculty of Engineering is pioneering the use of gamma rays to inspect large trees

Newswise — Lecturers from the Faculty of Nuclear Technology at the Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, have developed a special tree scanning device to determine trunk density and hollowness to prevent accidents from fallen trees and also as a way to protect large trees in urban areas. preserve areas.

Large trees standing tall for years with spreading branches that provide shade may look healthy and strong, but there’s no telling if the trunks are hollow inside yet. This can cause accidents where trees fall and passers-by are injured, even causing death, as happened five years ago when a Royal Poinciana (flame tree) fell on the Chula campus.

That fatal accident inspired Associate Professor Nares Chankow and Dr. Manusavee Lohvithee, lecturers from Chula’s Department of Nuclear Technology, Faculty of Engineering, to develop a device for scanning trees using gamma rays to determine the health of the trees through the density of the trunks making it the first and only attempt is here in Thailand.

According to Assoc. Prof. dr. Nares: “Gamma radiation can penetrate the trunks of trees, comparable to the X-ray of our body in the hospital. The procedure will help determine the tree’s health — whether the interior is healthy, has become hollow from decay, or has been eaten by termites and white ants. Other types of beams can do the job as well, but X-rays would have to use a generator that requires electrical power and therefore not very convenient to use.

The use of gamma radiation for healthy trees and the safety of people

associate Prof. dr. Nares further explained that the gamma-ray tree scanner is specifically designed to provide accurate and fast results without destroying the trees. The device includes a gamma ray measuring nozzle that is 3-4 times faster than average. It is connected to an automated system that propels the tire, which is controlled by a remote control and installed on a hydraulic forklift.

“The gamma-ray scanning device has a nozzle that is 3-4 times faster, so the concentration of the beam is relatively lower and therefore not dangerous to the person using it. It only takes 10 minutes to examine the health of one position of the tree and if necessary, the scanning can be done from multiple angles or repeatedly for more precision on each examination.

To examine a tree, the device should be used on a flat surface with a spacious area so that the forklift or hydraulic vehicle can easily access the tree. If the trunk is found to be hollow, a tree support provision is placed for additional support or cement is injected into the hollow section.

Scanning trees for the benefit of Chula and society

Since 2019, the Department of Nuclear Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University has been using the gamma-ray tree scanner as part of the Chula Big Tree project by starting with the five Chamchuri (Rain Trees) planted by HM King Bhumibol more than 60 years ago. Unfortunately, the fifth of those trees had fallen down in a rainstorm before the research project started. Two of the trees were found to be severely hollow, but the university had ensured that all four trees were supported by steel bars.

Such tasks have continued to this day. Apart from the four rain trees next to the Maha Chulalongkorn building, other old trees in the Faculty of Engineering and other faculties on campus have been scanned for the safety of all Chula students and staff.

The Department of Nuclear Technology has also regularly received requests from other agencies outside Chula to provide this scanning service. Recently, three rain trees with trunks 80-95 centimeters wide were scanned along the canal at Soi Somkid between Central Embassy and Central Chidlom shopping centers. The area is earmarked for landscape development with an added pedestrian bridge leading to Khlong Saen Saeb. Due to some limitations, as the space is quite narrow, the scanning device had to be redesigned with a smaller size and weight. The production of this modified version took only 5 days and the results of the scanning showed huge hollow spaces in all three trees.

“The Department of Nuclear Technology has also used low-power gamma scanning equipment to examine cracks and determine the strength of as many as 140 teak piles selected to be used in the construction of Thailand’s new parliament building. The project is supervised by assistant professor Chadet Yenchai. We expect that this equipment can be further developed in the future, making it easier to use with an automatic system that allows us to see perpendicular images in the trees. This will also depend on the budget that can be allocated for this project.” associate Prof. dr. Nares added.

For those interested in gamma ray tree scanning, please contact the Department of Nuclear Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University at Tel. +66-2218-6781
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