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Another radiation detection method records light produced when radiation interacts with materials. The energy of the radiation is sufficient to excite atoms in a material that may fluoresce, such as the phosphor used by Rutherford’s group. Materials called scintillators    use a more complex collaborative process to convert radiation energy into light. Scintillators may be liquid or solid, and they can be very efficient. Their light output can provide information about the energy, charge, and type of radiation. Scintillator light flashes are very brief in duration, enabling the detection of a huge number of particles in short periods of time. Scintillator detectors are used in a variety of research and diagnostic applications. Among these are the detection by satellite-mounted equipment of the radiation from distant galaxies, the analysis of radiation from a person indicating body burdens, and the detection of exotic particles in accelerator laboratories.

Light from a scintillator is converted into electrical signals by devices such as the photomultiplier    tube shown schematically in [link] . These tubes are based on the photoelectric effect, which is multiplied in stages into a cascade of electrons, hence the name photomultiplier. Light entering the photomultiplier strikes a metal plate, ejecting an electron that is attracted by a positive potential difference to the next plate, giving it enough energy to eject two or more electrons, and so on. The final output current can be made proportional to the energy of the light entering the tube, which is in turn proportional to the energy deposited in the scintillator. Very sophisticated information can be obtained with scintillators, including energy, charge, particle identification, direction of motion, and so on.

A cylindrical tube contains several curved plates labeled dynodes. Incoming radiation passes through a scintillating material at the top of the cylindrical tube. The photon thus produced generates a photoelectron at the photocathode and the photoelectron is then multiplied by collisions at the several successive dynodes, creating a sizable output electric pulse.
Photomultipliers use the photoelectric effect on the photocathode to convert the light output of a scintillator into an electrical signal. Each successive dynode has a more-positive potential than the last and attracts the ejected electrons, giving them more energy. The number of electrons is thus multiplied at each dynode, resulting in an easily detected output current.

Solid-state radiation detectors convert ionization produced in a semiconductor (like those found in computer chips) directly into an electrical signal. Semiconductors can be constructed that do not conduct current in one particular direction. When a voltage is applied in that direction, current flows only when ionization is produced by radiation, similar to what happens in a Geiger tube. Further, the amount of current in a solid-state detector is closely related to the energy deposited and, since the detector is solid, it can have a high efficiency (since ionizing radiation is stopped in a shorter distance in solids fewer particles escape detection). As with scintillators, very sophisticated information can be obtained from solid-state detectors.

Phet explorations: radioactive dating game

Learn about different types of radiometric dating, such as carbon dating. Understand how decay and half life work to enable radiometric dating to work. Play a game that tests your ability to match the percentage of the dating element that remains to the age of the object.

Radioactive Dating Game

Section summary

  • Radiation detectors are based directly or indirectly upon the ionization created by radiation, as are the effects of radiation on living and inert materials.

Conceptual questions

Is it possible for light emitted by a scintillator to be too low in frequency to be used in a photomultiplier tube? Explain.


The energy of 30.0 eV is required to ionize a molecule of the gas inside a Geiger tube, thereby producing an ion pair. Suppose a particle of ionizing radiation deposits 0.500 MeV of energy in this Geiger tube. What maximum number of ion pairs can it create?

1.67 × 10 4

A particle of ionizing radiation creates 4000 ion pairs in the gas inside a Geiger tube as it passes through. What minimum energy was deposited, if 30.0 eV is required to create each ion pair?

(a) Repeat [link] , and convert the energy to joules or calories. (b) If all of this energy is converted to thermal energy in the gas, what is its temperature increase, assuming 50.0 c m 3 of ideal gas at 0.250-atm pressure? (The small answer is consistent with the fact that the energy is large on a quantum mechanical scale but small on a macroscopic scale.)

Suppose a particle of ionizing radiation deposits 1.0 MeV in the gas of a Geiger tube, all of which goes to creating ion pairs. Each ion pair requires 30.0 eV of energy. (a) The applied voltage sweeps the ions out of the gas in 1.00 μ s . What is the current? (b) This current is smaller than the actual current since the applied voltage in the Geiger tube accelerates the separated ions, which then create other ion pairs in subsequent collisions. What is the current if this last effect multiplies the number of ion pairs by 900?

Questions & Answers

do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Mueller Reply
Mykayuh Reply
Because I'm writing a report and I would like to be really precise for the references
Gre Reply
where did you find the research and the first image (ECG and Blood pressure synchronized)? Thank you!!
Gre Reply
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, Physics 101. OpenStax CNX. Jan 07, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11479/1.1
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