# Proportional Counters

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1 Proportional Counters 3 1

2 Introduction 3 2 Before we can look at individual radiation processes, we need to understand how the radiation is detected: Non-imaging detectors Detectors capable of detecting photons from a source, but without any spatial resolution = Require, e.g., collimators to limit field of view. Example: Proportional Counters Imaging detectors Detectors with a spatial resolution, typically used in the IR, optical, UV or for soft X-rays. Generally behind some type of focusing optics. Example: Charge coupled devices (CCDs) Here: will concentrate on detectors for X-rays and optical light, starting with non-imaging detectors. Introduction 1

3 Ionization chamber Cathode Anode Volume filled with detector gas R U Simplest gas detector: gas-filled capacitor (ionization chamber) photon is photo absorbed in detector gas K-shell electron ejected with energy initial E through collisional ionization N charges are produced Electrostatic induction induces charge on capacitor plates Charges drain via R = Measurement Pulse height: Q = Ne = C U = U = Ne/C Typical magnitude of signal: C = 20 pf, Ne = e e = U = 1.6 mv. Problem: Pulse very weak since only primary charge measured. Proportional counters 1

4 Proportional Counters 3 4 High voltage Entrance window detector gas Cylindrical Cathode Anode wire Solution: amplify charge Close to Anodewire: E(r) = V/(r ln(b/a) (b radius of cathode, a radius of anode) = Strong acceleration of ionized particles = collisional ionization of gas = cascade! Measured voltage: U = en C A where A: amplification factor (typical: A = ). Since A const.: Voltage pulse N, and therefore Voltage pulse detected X-ray energy! and therefore: proportional counter Proportional counters 2

5 Pulse Amplification 3 5 Number of collected ions/electrons Recombination glow discharge Ionization chamber Proportional counter Geiger counter Limited proportionality Voltage [V] Pulse amplification in detector as a function of anode voltage. Typical proportional counter voltages are several 100 to 1000 V (depending on detector gas). (after Grupen, Fig.4.21) Proportional counters 3

6 Detector Gas 3 6 Use inert gases, e.g., Ar or Xe, since required voltage smallest and only low losses due to excitation of the gas atoms. Number of ions produced: N = E/ω, where ω is given by: Gas H He Ne Ar Kr ω [ev] Gas Xe Air CO 2 CH 4 ω [ev] = Typically N 1000 electron-ion pairs per 20 kev photon. Note: probability for absorption σ bf Z = use Xenon (Z = 54) for astronomical detectors since σ bf E 3 = proportional counters limited to E < 100 kev. Proportional counters 4

7 Cascade, I 3 7 Electron Gas ions Electron cascade Secondary electrons anode wire Grupen (Fig. 4.9) Typical electron paths µm = Cascade happens very close to anode wire Proportional counters 5

8 Cascade, II 3 8 Grupen (Fig. 4.27) Electrons are accelerated to very high speeds towards wire, Ions are accelerated away from wire = Main signal from ions, not electrons, since ions have larger potential difference typical duration of signal 100 µs, can reach higher time resolution by differentiating the signal Proportional counters 6

9 Energy Resolution 3 9 Measured signal: pulse height = Energy of the X-ray Resolution: E: Width (=FWHM, Full Width at Half Maximum) of the distribution of measured energies. Poisson statistics (N discrete Electron-Ion pairs!): E 2.35 N 2.35 E Typically one uses E/E Slight correlations due to amplifying discharge = Width of distribution somewhat smaller than expected from Poisson statistics = Fano Factor F : where for gas detectors F E E = 2.35 ( F N ) 1/2 More detailed theory yields ( ) E W (F + A) 1/2 E = 2.35 E W : mean energy to produce a pair (26 ev for Ar+Methane), F 0.2, A 0.6 = up to 14% at 5.9 kev doable. Proportional counters 7

10 Quenching 3 10 Problem: Excited ions emit UV photons = formation of new cascades due to photo effect = Total cascade takes a long time = large dead time. Solution: Absorption of UV photons in quenching gas, which is added to primary photomultiplier gas = cascade < 1 µs Energy of excited quenching gas is dumped later via inelastic collisions within the gas Also direct quenching of cascade, e.g., via Ar + + CH 4 Ar + CH + Typical quenching gases: CH 4, alcohol (C 2 H 5 OH), CO 2, BF 3,... (about 10% of total gas pressure). Often used: P10-gas (90% Ar and 10% CH 4 ) Proportional counters 8

11 Ageing 3 11 Marko Spegel, 1999 (Diss. Uni Wien), J. Vavra, SLAC-3882 Cascade: plasma discharge = Destruction of gas contaminants = formation of free radicals = polymerization Polymers have high dipole moment = attach to electrodes = Reduction of pulse charges = Ageing Typical contaminants: carbon, oxide-layers, silicates, e.g., from oil, finger grease, Silan (SiH 4 ), solvents in vacuum sealants,... Results in field electron emission through photo-effect = discharge = wire destroyed ( Malter-Effekt ) Most sensitive proportional counter gas: Ar/CH 4... Proportional counters 9

12 Example: RXTE-PCA 3 12 Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer HEXTE A B PCA (1 of 5) ASM Rossi-X-ray Timing Explorer, Launch , 3 instruments: Proportional Counter Array (PCA, kev), High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE, kev), All Sky Monitor (ASM, 2 10 kev) PCA and HEXTE have µsec timing resolution Proportional counters 10

13 Example: RXTE-PCA 3 13 Proportional counters 11

14 Example: RXTE-PCA 3 14 Shielding 3.6 cm hexagonal Collimator Mylar Windows (25 µ m) Propane layer (anticoincidence) Xenon/Methane layers (signal layers) Xenon/Methane chambers (anticoincidence) PCA consists of 5 Proportional Counter Units (PCUs), 1 atm pressure Propane and outer anodes in Anti-Coincidence = Background reduction BeCu-Collimator to limit field of view to 1 Alpha Detector Am source 32.5cm 241 Am-source for energy calibration (simultaneous emission of 59.6 kev γ s and α-particles = coincidence measurements). Proportional counters 12

15 Example: RXTE-PCA 3 15 Design of the PCA (NASA/GSFC) Proportional counters 13

16 Example: RXTE-PCA RXTE-PCA Photon Energy [kev] 10 Response matrix: Relation between incident photon energy and detection channel PHA Channel Energy [kev] Resolution: 18% at 6 kev Escape-Peaks caused by Xe Kα (E = kev) and Xe Lα (E = 4.11 kev) photons leaving the detector without being detected. Proportional counters 14

17 Example: RXTE-PCA this is what happens once a Mylar window starts having a hole in space In addition ageing = Reduction of high voltage, alternate use of different PCUs. Proportional counters 15

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