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Title: A Multi-Contact, Low Capacitance HPGe Detector for High Rate Gamma Spectroscopy

The detection, identification and non-destructive assay of special nuclear materials and nuclear fission by-products are critically important activities in support of nuclear non-proliferation programs. Both national and international nuclear safeguard agencies recognize that current accounting methods for spent nuclear fuel are inadequate from a safeguards perspective. Radiation detection and analysis by gamma-ray spectroscopy is a key tool in this field, but no instrument exists that can deliver the required performance (energy resolution and detection sensitivity) in the presence of very high background count rates encountered in the nuclear safeguards arena. The work of this project addresses this critical need by developing a unique gamma-ray detector based on high purity germanium that has the previously unachievable property of operating in the 1 million counts-per-second range while achieving state-of-the-art energy resolution necessary to identify and analyze the isotopes of interest. The technical approach was to design and fabricate a germanium detector with multiple segmented electrodes coupled to multi-channel high rate spectroscopy electronics. Dividing the germanium detector’s signal electrode into smaller sections offers two advantages; firstly, the energy resolution of the detector is potentially improved, and secondly, the detector is able to operate at higher count rates. The design challenges included the following;more » determining the optimum electrode configuration to meet the stringent energy resolution and count rate requirements; determining the electronic noise (and therefore energy resolution) of the completed system after multiple signals are recombined; designing the germanium crystal housing and vacuum cryostat; and customizing electronics to perform the signal recombination function in real time. In this phase I work, commercial off-the-shelf electrostatic modeling software was used to develop the segmented germanium crystal geometry, which underwent several iterations before an optimal electrode configuration was found. The model was tested and validated against real-world measurements with existing germanium detectors. Extensive modeling of electronic noise was conducted using established formulae, and real-world measurements were performed on candidate front-end electronic components. This initial work proved the feasibility of the design with respect to expected high count rate and energy resolution performance. Phase I also delivered the mechanical design of the detector housing and vacuum cryostat to be built in Phase II. Finally, a Monte Carlo simulation was created to show the response of the complete design to a Cs-137 source. This development presents a significant advance for nuclear safeguards instrumentation with increased speed and accuracy of detection and identification of special nuclear materials. Other significant applications are foreseen for a gamma-ray detector that delivers high energy resolution (1keV FWHM noise) at high count rate (1 Mcps), especially in the areas of physics research and materials analysis.« less
  1. XIA LLC, Hayward, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
XIA LLC, Hayward, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States
98 NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT, SAFEGUARDS, AND PHYSICAL PROTECTION; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES Nuclear materials assay; nuclear safeguards; gamma-ray spectroscopy; segmented germanium detectors; HPGe