particle detector

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Related to Particle Detectors: Nuclear Radiation Detectors

particle detector,

in physics, device for detecting, measuring, and analyzing particles and other forms of radiationradiation
, term applied to the emission and transmission of energy through space or through a material medium and also to the radiated energy itself. In its widest sense the term includes electromagnetic, acoustic, and particle radiation, and all forms of ionizing radiation.
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 entering it. Such devices play an important role not only in basic research, as in the study of elementary particleselementary particles,
the most basic physical constituents of the universe. Basic Constituents of Matter

Molecules are built up from the atom, which is the basic unit of any chemical element. The atom in turn is made from the proton, neutron, and electron.
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, but also in numerous applications of physics, from uses of radioactive tracers in medicine and biology to prospecting for natural ores that exhibit radioactivityradioactivity,
spontaneous disintegration or decay of the nucleus of an atom by emission of particles, usually accompanied by electromagnetic radiation. The energy produced by radioactivity has important military and industrial applications.
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. Almost all instruments used for detecting are based either on the ionization of matter caused by radiation or on the luminescenceluminescence,
general term applied to all forms of cool light, i.e., light emitted by sources other than a hot, incandescent body, such as a blackbody radiator. Luminescence is caused by the movement of electrons within a substance from more energetic states to less energetic
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 it can cause in certain materials. In devices based on ionization (the separation of neutral atoms or molecules into oppositely charged fragments), various methods may be used to convert the ionization to a useful measure of the radiation. In the ionization chamberionization chamber,
device for the detection and measurement of ionizing radiation. It consists basically of a sealed chamber containing a gas and two electrodes between which a voltage is maintained by an external circuit. When ionizing radiation, e.g.
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 and the Geiger counterGeiger counter
or Geiger-Müller (G-M) counter
, instrument for the detection and quantitative determination of ionizing radiation such as the alpha and beta rays given off by radioactive minerals and cosmic rays. It was first developed by Hans (J. W.
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, the radiation is measured by changes in an external electrical circuit; these changes are due to a current resulting from the increase of charges. In the bubble chamberbubble chamber,
device for detecting charged particles and other radiation by means of tracks of bubbles left in a chamber filled with liquid hydrogen or other liquefied gas. It was invented in 1952 by Donald Glaser.
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, cloud chambercloud chamber,
device used to detect elementary particles and other ionizing radiation. A cloud chamber consists essentially of a closed container filled with a supersaturated vapor, e.g., water in air.
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, and spark chamberspark chamber,
in physics, device for recording the passage of elementary particles produced by reactions in a particle accelerator. Particles pass through a stack of metal plates or wire grids that are maintained with high voltage between alternate layers.
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, ionization is used to make visible the track of the charged particle causing the ionization. By adding a magnetic field across the path of incoming particles, a great deal can be learned about the nature and properties of the particles detected by the chambers; the presence of uncharged particles can be indicated indirectly as well. Another device used in studies of particles records a visible track made in a photographic emulsion. The most important device based on the luminescent effect of radiation is the scintillation counterscintillation counter,
device for detecting and measuring radiation by means of tiny visible flashes produced by the radiation when it strikes a sensitive substance known as a phosphor (see phosphorescence).
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. In addition to these larger instruments, there are also small detectors designed to be worn or carried by persons working near sources of potentially dangerous radiation. These are scaled down and sometimes simplified versions of the devices already described. Typical of these small detectors are pocket-size ionization chambers that resemble fountain pens and film detectors, embedded in badges, that register the amount of radiation by the degree of exposure of the film.

Particle detector

A device used to detect and measure radiation characteristically emitted in nuclear processes, including gamma rays or x-rays, lightweight charged particles (electrons or positrons), nuclear constituents (neutrons, protons, and heavier ions), and subnuclear constituents such as mesons. The device is also known as a radiation detector. Since human senses do not respond to these types of radiation, detectors are essential tools for the discovery of radioactive minerals, for all studies of the structure of matter at the atomic, nuclear, and subnuclear levels, and for protection from the effects of radiation. They have also become important practical tools in the analysis of materials using the techniques of neutron activation and x-ray fluorescence analysis. See Elementary particle, Nuclear reaction, Nuclear spectra, Particle accelerator, Radioactivity

A convenient way to classify radiation detectors is according to their mode of use: (1) For detailed observation of individual photons or particles, a pulse detector is used to convert each such event (that is, photon or particle) into an electrical signal. (2) To measure the average rate of events, a mean-current detector, such as an ion chamber, is often used. Radiation monitoring and neutron flux measurements in reactors generally fall in this category. Sometimes, when the total number of events in a known time is to be determined, an integrating version of this detector is used. (3) Position-sensitive detectors are used to provide information on the location of particles or photons in the plane of the detector. (4) Track-imaging detectors image the whole three-dimensional structure of a particle's track. The output may be recorded by immediate electrical readout or by photographing tracks as in the bubble chamber. (5) The time when a particle passes through a detector or a photon interacts in it is measured by a timing detector. Such information is used to determine the velocity of particles and when observing the time relationship between events in more than one detector.

The ionization produced by a charged particle is the effect commonly employed in a particle detector. In the basic type of gas ionization detector, an electric field applied between two electrodes separates and collects the electrons and positive ions produced in the gas by the radiation to be measured. Multiwire proportional chambers and spark chambers are position-sensitive adaptations of gas detectors. The signal division or time delay that occurs between the ends of an electrode made of resistive material is sometimes used to provide position sensitivity in gas and semiconductor detectors. Track-imaging detectors rely on a secondary effect of the ionization along a particle's track to reveal its structure. See Ionization chamber

In a semiconductor detector, a solid replaces the gas. The “insulating” region (depletion layer) of a reverse-biased pn junction in a semiconductor is employed. Since solids are approximately 1000 times denser than gases, absorption of radiation can be accomplished in relatively small volumes. A less obvious but fundamental advantage of semiconductor detectors is the fact that much less energy is required (∼3 eV) to produce a hole-electron pair than that required (∼30 eV) to produce an ion electron pair in gases. See Crystal counter, Junction detector

In addition to producing free electrons and ions, the passage of a charged particle through matter temporarily raises electrons in the material into excited states. When these electrons fall back into their normal state, light may be emitted and detected as in the scintillation detector. See Scintillation counter

Neutral particles, such as neutrons, cannot be detected directly by ionization. Consequently, they must be converted into charged particles by a suitable process and then observed by detecting the ionization caused by these particles.

Although ionization detectors dominate the field, a number of detector types based on other radiation-induced effects are used. Examples are (1) transition radiation detectors, which depend on the x-rays and light emitted when a particle passes through the interface between two media of different refractive indices; (2) track detectors, in which the damage caused by charged particles in plastic films and in minerals is revealed by etching procedures; (3) thermoluminescent and radiophotoluminescent detectors, which rely on the latent effects of radiation in creating traps in a material or in creating trapped charge; and (4) Cerenkov detectors, which depend on measurement of the light produced by passage of a particle whose velocity is greater than the velocity of light in the detector medium. See Cerenkov radiation, Transition radiation detectors

The very large detector systems used in relativistic heavy-ion experiments and in the detection of the products of collisions of charged particles at very high energies, typically at the intersection region of storage rings, deserve special consideration. These detectors are frequently composites of several of the basic types of detectors discussed above and are designed to provide a detailed picture of the multiple products of collisions at high energies. The complete detector system may occupy a space tens of feet in extent and involve tens or hundreds of thousands of individual signal processing channels, together with large computer recording and analysis facilities.

particle detector

[′pärd·ə·kəl di‚tek·tər]
A device used to indicate the presence of fast-moving charged atomic or nuclear particles by observation of the electrical disturbance created by a particle as it passes through the device. Also known as radiation detector.
References in periodicals archive ?
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