Gamma Spectroscopy and Detectors
A Geiger-Müller counter can be used to measure gamma radiation. It shows the number of measured gamma quanta, but has no detailed information about the radiation. In addition the counting efficiency is very low for gamma radiation.
Since gamma transitions in a nucleus have characteristic energies, it is interesting to use a detector which is able to register both the amount of incomming gammas and their corresponding energies. The gamma rays can then be graphed in a spectrum, where the number of counts is sorted within given energy intervals.
The NaI(Tl) Detector
The density and the proton number of a NaI(Tl) crystal are both relatively high (3.7 g/cm3 and 53 respectively) which makes it a very efficient gamma detector. The detector can be made in many different ways and sizes. The well detector is a popular type due to its high geometric counting efficiency. Here the crystal is formed as a cylinder where the sample can be placed.
When gamma radiation is absorbed in the NaI(Tl) crystal the deposited energy excite the crystal ions. The transition from the excited state to the ground state sends out light photons with energies propotional to the energy of the gamma. A photomultiplicator can register the light photons and convert them into electric pulses. The size of a pulse is propotional to the amount of light emitted.
The Germanium detector
The element germanium is particular suitable for detection of gamma radiation because of its semiconductor properties. In a semiconductor the energy gap between the conductive and the valence bond is small, while in an insulator the energy gap is large. For instane the energy gap in a diamond is 5.33 eV and makes it a good insolator. In contrast the energy gap in germanium is 0.67 eV and thus makes it a good semiconductor. A hole in the valance shell is created when a bound electron is excited to the conductive bond. In the presence of an electric potential, the electrons in the conductive bond will move towards the positive pole. Meanwhile the holes are successively filled by electrons, and makes it shift towards the negative pole. The movement of the holes and the elecrons will together lead to a pulse of electricity through the crystal.