Evaluation of Scintillator Detection Materials for Application within Airborne Environmental Radiation Monitoring

Lowdon, Matthew; Martin, Peter G.; Hubbard, M.W.J.; Taggart, M.P.; Connor, Dean T.; Verbelen, Yannick; Sellin, P.J. and Scott, Thomas B. (2019). Evaluation of Scintillator Detection Materials for Application within Airborne Environmental Radiation Monitoring. Sensors, 19(18), article no. 3828.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/s19183828


In response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, there has occurred the unabated growth in the number of airborne platforms developed to perform radiation mapping—each utilising various designs of a low-altitude uncrewed aerial vehicle. Alongside the associated advancements in the airborne system transporting the radiation detection payload, from the earliest radiological analyses performed using gas-filled Geiger-Muller tube detectors, modern radiation detection and mapping platforms are now based near-exclusively on solid-state scintillator detectors. With numerous varieties of such light-emitting crystalline materials now in existence, this combined desk and computational modelling study sought to evaluate the best-available detector material compatible with the requirements for low-altitude autonomous radiation detection, localisation and subsequent high spatial-resolution mapping of both naturally occurring and anthropogenically-derived radionuclides. The ideal geometry of such detector materials is also evaluated. While NaI and CsI (both elementally doped) are (and will likely remain) the mainstays of radiation detection, LaBr3 scintillation detectors were determined to possess not only a greater sensitivity to incident gamma-ray radiation, but also a far superior spectral (energy) resolution over existing and other potentially deployable detector materials. Combined with their current competitive cost, an array of three such composition cylindrical detectors were determined to provide the best means of detecting and discriminating the various incident gamma-rays.

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