Nuclear Radiation Detectors

In experimental and applied particle physics, nuclear physics, and nuclear engineering, a particle detector, also known as a radiation detector, is a device used to detect, track, and/or identify ionizing particles, such as those produced by nuclear decay, cosmic radiation, or reactions in a particle accelerator.

Radiation Detector or particle detector is a device that measure this ionization of  beta radiation, gamma radiations and alpha radiation with matter which create electrons and positively charged ions.

Radiation Detector is a instrument used to detect or identify high-energy particles, such as those produced by nuclear decay, cosmic radiation, or reactions in a particle accelerator.

Earlier, photographic plates were used to identify tracks left by nuclear interactions. Sub-nuclear particles are discovered by using cloud chambers which needed photographic recordings and a tedious measurement of tracks from the photographs.

Nuclear radiation detectors serve to determine the composition and measure the intensity of radiation, to measure the energy spectra of particles, to study the processes of interaction between fast particles and atomic nuclei, and to study the decay processes of unstable particles. Detectors that make it possible to imprint the trajectories of individual particles—the Wilson cloud chamber, a variety of the Wilson chamber known as the diffusion chamber, the bubble chamber, the spark chamber, and nuclear photographic emulsions—are especially useful in the study of the decay processes of unstable particles, the most complex group of problems. The operation of all nuclear radiation detectors is based on the ionization or excitation by charged particles of the atoms of the substance that fills the effective volume of the detector. In the case of y-quanta and neutrons, ionization and excitation are accomplished by secondary charged particles that arise as a result of the interaction between gamma quanta or neutrons and the working medium of the detector. Thus, the passage of all nuclear particles through the medium is accompanied by the formation of free electrons and ions, the appearance of flashes of light (scintillations), and chemical and thermal effects. As a result, radiation can be registered by the appearance of electrical signals (current or potential pulses) at the output of the detector, by the darkening of a photoemulsion, or by other means. The electrical signals are usually small and require amplification. The current intensity at the output, the average pulse recurrence frequency, and the degree of darkening of the photoemulsion are measures of the flux intensity of the nuclear radiation.

Electronic detectors developed with the invention of the transistor. Modern detectors use calorimeters to measure the energy of the detected radiation. They may also be used to measure other attributes such as momentum, spin, charge etc. of the particles.

Type of Detectors:


When excited by ionizing radiation, a scintillator exhibits scintillation which is nothing but the property of luminescence. When a scintillator is coupled to an electronic light sensor such as a photomultiplier tube (PMT), photodiode, or silicon photomultiplier, a scintillator detector. Scintillator-type detectors first converts light into electrical pulses. They use vacuum tubes to perform so.

Gaseous Ionization Detectors:

A radiation detection instrument used in particle physics to detect the presence of ionising particles, and in radiation protection applications to measure ionizing radiation is called Gaseous ionization detectors.

Geiger Counter:

Geiger-Mueller counter, commonly called the Geiger counter is the most commonly used detector. A central wire in between a gas-filled tube at high voltage is used to collect the ionization produced by incident radiation. Although it cannot distinguish between them, it can detect alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.


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