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Measurement of Radiation, Sodium Iodide Detector

The second most common type of radiation detecting instrument is the scintillation detector. The basic principle behind this instrument is the use of a special material which glows or “scintillates” when radiation interacts with it. The most common type of material is a type of salt called sodium-iodide. The light produced from the scintillation process is reflected through a clear window where it interacts with device called a photomultiplier tube.

The first part of the photomultiplier tube is made of another special material called a photocathode. The photocathode has the unique characteristic of producing electrons when light strikes its surface. These electrons are then pulled towards a series of plates called dynodes through the application of a positive high voltage. When electrons from the photocathode hit the first dynode, several electrons are produced for each initial electron hitting its surface. This “bunch” of electrons is then pulled towards the next dynode, where more electron “multiplication” occurs. The sequence continues until the last dynode is reached, where the electron pulse is now millions of times larger then it was at the beginning of the tube. At this point the electrons are collected by an anode at the end of the tube forming an electronic pulse. The pulse is then detected and displayed by a special instrument.

Scintillation detectors are very sensitive radiation instruments and are used for special environmental surveys and as laboratory instruments.