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Phase I Rinal Report: Ultra-Low Background Alpha Activity Counter

Description: In certain important physics experiments that search for rare-events, such as neutrino or double beta decay detections, it is critical to minimize the number of background events that arise from alpha particle emitted by the natural radioactivity in the materials used to construct the experiment. Similarly, the natural radioactivity in materials used to connect and package silicon microcircuits must also be minimized in order to eliminate ''soft errors'' caused by alpha particles depositing charges within the microcircuits and thereby changing their logic states. For these, and related reasons in the areas of environmental cleanup and nuclear materials tracking, there is a need that is important from commercial, scientific, and national security perspectives to develop an ultra-low background alpha counter that would be capable of measuring materials' alpha particle emissivity at rates well below 0.00001 alpha/cm{sup 2}/hour. This rate, which corresponds to 24 alpha particles per square meter per day, is essentially impossible to achieve with existing commercial instruments because the natural radioactivity of the materials used to construct even the best of these counters produces background rates at the 0.005 alpha/cm{sup 2}/hr level. Our company (XIA) had previously developed an instrument that uses electronic background suppression to operate at the 0.0005 0.005 alpha/cm{sup 2}/hr level. This patented technology sets up an electric field between a large planar sample and a large planar anode, and fills the gap with pure Nitrogen. An alpha particle entering the chamber ionizes the Nitrogen, producing a ''track'' of electrons, which drift to the anode in the electric field. Tracks close to the anode take less than 10 microseconds (us) to be collected, giving a preamplifier signal with a 10 us risetime. Tracks from the sample have to drift across the full anode-sample gap and produce a 35 us risetime signal. By analyzing the preamplifier signals ...
Date: July 22, 2005
Creator: Warburton, W.K.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department