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Determination of Mass Absorption Coefficients in Pb and Al, and the Range in Al,

For Radiations from Co-60 and Cs-137 Nuclides

D. R. Sieglaff, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, USA

Submitted 22 April 2007

ABSTRACT

The mass absorption coefficient in Pb for 0.66 MeV and 1.33 MeV gamma ray photons, and that in Al for

0.66 MeV gamma ray photons, was measured using a NaI scintillator/PMT detector and MCA system. The

0.66 MeV gamma rays originated from a Cs-137 sample, and the 1.33 MeV gamma rays originated from a

Co-60 sample. The range in Al for 0.52 MeV beta rays from a Cs-137 sample was measured using a GM

detector.

INTRODUCTION

The stopping power of materials such as those used in this study for high energy gamma and beta

radiation is of great fundamental and practical importance. It is not possible to accurately predict from

theory what thickness of any given material will be sufficient to absorb a given fraction of an incident

stream of nuclear radiation. Fortunately, this information is available through experimental measurements

of the type presented here. The loss of energetic particles through interaction with matter is characterized

by an absorption coefficient associated with a decaying exponential model. It is interesting to note that, in

their interaction with matter, photons are annihilated (i.e. truly removed from the incident stream), while

electrons are merely brought to rest. Therefore, in addition to the absorption coefficient, it is meaningful to

speak of the range of the beta ray, which is the maximum distance traveled before coming essentially to

rest.

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

PHYS-162 LAB

THEORY

The absorption of radiation is characterized by the equation

N N 0 exp x ,

(1)

where N0 is the number of particles of radiation counted during a certain time duration without any

absorber, N is the number counted during the same time with a thickness x of absorber between the source

of radiation and the detector, and is the absorption coefficient. This equation may be cast into the linear

form

ln N x ln N 0 .

(2)

(3)

HV

TO PC

RUNNING

UCS20

SOFTWARE

USB

SPECTECH

UCS20

PREAMP

IN

SIGNAL

HV

NaI/PMT

DETECTOR

Pb SHIELD

SAMPLE

HOLDER

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

PHYS-162 LAB

METHOD

To measure the attenuation constant for the absorption of gamma rays, a sample of radioactive material was

placed in a sample holder beneath a NaI scintillation detector and photomultiplier tube (PMT), as shown in

Figure 1, with enough room between the sample and the detector to place various thicknesses of absorbing

material. An initial pulse height spectrum was obtained using a SpecTech UCS20 multichannel analyzer

(MCA) with no absorbers. The energy peak associated with the sought radiation was identified, and the

number of counts in the peak channel was recorded.

thicknesses of absorbing material were placed between the source and the detector. For each thickness

used, a new spectrum was acquired for the same amount of time as the initial measurement, and the number

of counts in the sought radiation peak, in the same channel as the initial measurement, was recorded.

HV

SPECTECH

ST360

PREAMP

IN

SIGNAL

HV

GM

DETECTOR

SAMPLE

HOLDER

To measure the range of 0.52 MeV beta rays from Cs-137 in Al, the sample was placed beneath a GeigerMueller (GM) detector, as shown in Figure 2. An initial number of counts was obtained using a SpecTech

ST360 radiation counter. Various thicknesses of Al were placed between the source and the detector. For

each thickness used, the number of counts was gathered over the same amount of time as the initial

measurement.

RESULTS

Figure 3a shows the attenuation of 0.66 MeV gamma ray photons from Cs-137 in Pb. Figure 3b shows the

same except in Al. Figure 3c shows the attenuation of 1.33 MeV gamma ray photons from Co-60 in Pb.

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

PHYS-162 LAB

These data were fit using a linear function of the form of equation (2). In each case the linear fit is shown.

Table 1 summarizes the absorption coefficients and mass absorption coefficients determined for each case.

Uncertainties are the standard error in the slope determination.

a)

b)

c)

Figure 3. The attenuation of 0.66 MeV gamma ray photons in a) Pb, and b) Al. The attenuation of

1.33 MeV gamma ray photons in c) Pb.

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

PHYS-162 LAB

ENERGY OF

PHOTON

(MeV)

ABSORBER

MATERIAL

ABSORBER

DENSITY (g-cm-3)

MASS ABSORPTION

COEFFICIENT (cm2-g-1)

Pb

11.34

0.101 0.003

Al

2.7

0.068 0.001

Pb

11.34

0.046 0.006

0.66

1.33

Table 1. Mass absorption coefficients and related data for the cases studied.

Figure 4a shows the attenuation of 0.52 MeV beta particles from Cs-137 in Al. A significant difficulty

arose because the gamma radiation emitted by the Cs-137 source was also detected by the GM detector.

However, each of the radiations exhibited a vastly different absorption coefficient. Therefore it was

possible to fit an attenuation curve to just the gamma ray contribution, as shown in Figure 4a. The number

of counts from the gamma rays, Ngamma, for the data that included both beta and gamma radiation was

estimated using the following formula

N gamma exp mx ln b ,

(4)

where m is the slope and b is the intercept of the fit formula displayed in Figure 4a. For each value of x

investigated, Ngamma was computed and subtracted from the number of counts recorded, to produce a set of

corrected counts. To determine the range of beta particles in Al, those corrected count values greater than

N 0 , where N0 is the number of corrected counts obtained with no absorber, were included in a fit to

determine the attenuation of beta particles only in Al, as shown in Figure 4b. The range is defined as the

thickness of absorber required to just stop all of the beta particles. Experimentally, when the counts drop

into the noise for a given thickness, the definition is satisfied. The noise is the absolute statistical

N 0 . This noise level is marked on Figure 4b. The range is

x

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

ln

N0 b

m

5.53 11.2

0.89 mm ,

6.29 mm 1

(5)

PHYS-162 LAB

where m and b are the slope and intercept displayed in Figure 4b.

b)

a)

Figure 4. a) The attenuation of 0.52 MeV beta rays and 0.66 MeV gamma rays in Al. A linear fit is

made to the gamma attenuation. b) Same as a) except with the estimated gamma counts subtracted

from the data. A linear fit is made to the beta attenuation.

DISCUSSION

It is seen that the mass absorption coefficients associated with the same gamma attenuation, from Table 1,

are similar even for materials with vastly different densities. It is seen also that the mass absorption

coefficient, in the same material, associated with a higher energy photon is less than that for a lower energy

photon. This is expected since the higher energy photons are harder to stop. The uncertainty in the mass

absorption coefficient measured for 1.33 MeV gamma ray photons could be lowered by obtaining a source

of higher activity. It is possible to compare the reported value of the range of beta particles to theory that

predicts an energy loss rate in matter of K = 2 MeV/(cm2/g) for relativistic charged particles1. If E is the

photon energy, then the reciprocal mass absorption coefficient would be E/K. But this is equal to x where

x

1 E

cm3

0.52 MeV

0.096 cm 0.96 mm ,

K 2.7 g 2 MeV cm 2 g1

(6)

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

PHYS-162 LAB

CONCLUSION

The mass absorption coefficients in Pb for 0.66 MeV and 1.33 MeV gamma ray photons, and that in Al for

0.66 MeV gamma ray photons, were measured. The range in Al for 0.52 MeV beta rays was determined.

Dean Sieglaff

Created: 22 Apr 2007

Modified:

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