Environmental Radiation Laboratory
Ever wonder if that banana you are eating is radioactive? (It is, but only a little.) Many everyday objects have tiny amounts of natural and manmade radioactivity in them. The banana, which, as everyone knows is rich in potassium, includes trace amounts of radioactive 40-potassium. Other examples include cat litter, Brazil nuts and cigarettes. The Richmond Environmental Radiation Laboratory (ERL) supports $150,000 worth of research equipment, including two hyper-pure germanium-detectors capable of measuring the gamma-radiation emitted by such samples. Professor Beausang and his students are currently working on an interdisciplinary project in the ERL with Malcolm Hill in the Department of Biology to study sponges collected from the Chesapeake Bay and sand samples collected from sites across the world.