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NE 104

Course Title: 
Radiation Detection and Nuclear Instrumentation Laboratory
Course Units: 
Catalog Description: 
  • Basic science of radiation measurement, nuclear instrumentation, neutronics, radiation dosimetry. The lectures emphasize the principles of radiation detection. The weekly laboratory applies a variety of radiation detection systems to the practical measurements of interest for nuclear power, nuclear and non-nuclear science, and environmental applications. Students present goals and approaches of the experiments being performed.
Course Prerequisite: 
  • Course in nuclear radiation and reactions: NE 101 or equivalent or consent of instructor
  • Recommended: Course in nuclear reactor theory (NE 150 or equivalent)
Prerequisite Knowledge and/or Skills: 
  • The course uses the following knowledge and skills from prerequisite and lower-division courses:
  • apply basic calculus, including the solution of first order differential equations.
  • do simple calculations using the radioactive decay law.
  • be familiar with nuclear decay processes (beta, alpha, gamma, and spontaneous fission decay), associated atomic processes (internal conversion, X-ray, Auger, internal bremsstrahlung), and the general characteristics of the radiations emitted (electrons and positrons, alpha particles, gamma rays and X-rays, fission fragments, neutrons).
  • be familiar with the mechanisms by which high-energy radiations interact with matter. Do simple calculations of stopping power and range.
  • Do simple chemistry and physics calculations involving atomic weights, Avogadro's number, the ideal gas law.
Course Objectives: 
  • introduce students to various types of detectors used to measure high-energy (ionizing) radiations, the electronic systems used to count and measure high-energy radiations, and the general properties of radiation detection systems.
  • based on the characteristic properties of high-energy radiations and the science of their interactions with matter, explain the mechanisms of radiation detection and derive the resulting properties of radiation detectors and measurement systems.
  • introduce students to the concept of experimental uncertainty, the statistics of radiation counting, error propagation, and the analysis of experimental results.
  • teach students how to make laboratory measurements, calculate or estimate and use experimental uncertainties, and record and report laboratory results.
  • through laboratory experience and discussion, show students how radiation detection systems behave in practice and how they can be applied to problems of interest in nuclear science and engineering, general science, biomedicine, and environmental science.
Course Outcomes: 
  • explain the characteristics and uses of nuclear detectors and calculate their properties (efficiency, energy resolution, time resolution, pulse-pair resolution, dead-time). Compare the properties of different detectors and select the detector most appropriate for a given application. Describe qualitatively and quantitatively the result of measuring a specified radiation with a particular radiation detector system.
  • calculate the uncertainties in nuclear counting experiments and utilize the uncertainties in the analysis of experimental results.
  • perform nuclear counting and spectroscopy experiments, record the results in a permanent log, and analyze the results.
  • write reports that describe the laboratory experiments concisely, present and analyze results, including experimental, calculated, and propagated uncertainties, and draw conclusions based on the results, and make oral presentations to the class.
  • use radiation detection systems to: (a) measure the system characteristics (energy resolution, dead-time, efficiency), (b) measure radioactive half-lives, radiation spectra, and radiation absorption properties, (c) perform trace-element analysis by neutron activation, (d) study a neutron-multiplying (sub-critical) system, and (e) measure the neutron flux in several energy ranges in a research reactor.
  • Do laboratory research together in both informal groups of two to four students and organized teams of eight students with a designated, rotating leader. Analyze the results of experiments and work out answers to assigned problem sets with a combination of individual study and exchange of ideas with classmates.
Topics Covered: 
  • Types and characteristics of detectors for high-energy radiations, how they work, and how they are used. Detector types include: gas-filled detectors: simple ion chambers, proportional, Geiger-Muller counters
  • Semiconductor detectors: p-n junction, lithium drifted, high-purity germanium
  • Scintillation detectors: NaI(Tl), organic
  • Electronic systems for radiation detection and measurement.
  • Nuclear counting statistics, experimental uncertainties, uncertainty propogation.
  • Dead time.
  • Laboratory measurement, uncertainty estimation, data recording, analysis, report writing.
  • Application of radiation measurement to nuclear science and engineering, general science, biomedicine, and environmental science.
Textbook(s) and/or Other Required Materials: 
  • G.F. Knoll, "Radiation Detection and Measurement," Third Ed. John Wiley and Sons (2000)
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 
  • This is primarily a laboratory course, with one four-hour laboratory and two one-hour lectures each week.
Contribution of Course to Meeting the Professional Component: 
  • This course contributes to the students' knowledge of radiation detection systems used in nuclear power and in other applications.
  • Radiation detection and measurement is used to monitor normal operations, detect and analyze abnormal conditions, and insure safe operation in nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel-handling facilities. They are also widely applied to problems in basic nuclear science, general science (e.g., the use of radioactive tracers in chemistry and biology, the measurement of radioisotopes in geology, measurement of ionizing radiation in astronomy), biomedicine (e.g., medical imaging), and environmental science (e.g., the measurement of man-made and naturally occurring radioactive substances).
Relationship of Course to Degree Program Objectives: 
  • This course primarily serves students in the department and students with double majors (e.g., nuclear/mechanical engineering).
  • This course contributes to the NE program objectives by providing a basic understanding of widely used measurement techniques and experience in laboratory measurement and the analysis of experimental results. It provides sufficient knowledge and experience to select a radiation measurement system appropriate for a specific application and use it to perform measurements.
Assessment of Student Progress Toward Course Objectives: 
  • Laboratory reports (7) 50%
  • Final exam 25%
  • Problem sets (6) 10%
  • Log books 10%
  • Laboratory participation 5%