Electron Beam Processing
The electron beam (E-beam) irradiation process uses high-energy electrons for a variety of applications. Electron beam irradiation processing is commonly used in the sterilization of medical devices, contamination control, as well as the modification of materials such as, heat shrink tubing and wire and cable insulation.
What is Electron Beam Irradiation?
The electron beam process can achieve widely differing effects, such as sterilization, polymer modification, cross linking and chain scission, via its action as an ionizing radiation.
In its simplest terms, the bombardment of a material with high-energy electrons results in a cascade of these electrons moving through the target material. These electrons are free to interact with molecules within the material, ejecting electrons from their orbits and generating free radicals. It is primarily the reactions of these species that are responsible for the ability of the beam to modify polymers. In the context of the electron beams sterilization capability it is generally accepted that these same species induce breaks in the DNA double helix, preventing replication or expression, resulting in the ability to sterilize.
The process utilizes high energy electrons as its radiation source. The electrons, which are produced by normal electrical current, are accelerated to near the speed of light by means of a linear accelerator. The resulting energies, ranging normally from 3 to 10 million electron volts (MeV) and coupled with 1 to 50 kW of power, have sufficient energy to penetrate a range of materials.
The process itself takes place behind a thick concrete wall, which prevents radiation from leaving the cell. Because electron beam utilizes high-energy electrons, the process takes place with minimal loss of efficiency and downtime.
What is Electron Beam Irradiation Used For?
As a result of increased energy available from new generation equipment, this technology has established itself as a flexible and high speed process for sterilizing medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
The E-beam process is also used as a method of controlling contamination in packaging, cosmetics and toiletries.