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BPW34 Gamma Ray Detector

The usual approach to radiation detection is the use of a Geiger-Müller tube and its high voltage circuit requirements, but during a quick surf through the internet today, I came across this portable and “accurate looking” solution developed by Stefan Wagner, on EasyEDA.

Rather than the Geiger Muller tube and its complex circuitry, the project uses a miniature Silicon PIN Photodiode, the 3x BPW34 (which were connected in parallel to improve sensitivity), as the primary sensing component. The BPW34 is a PIN photodiode with high speed and high radiant sensitivity in miniature, flat, top view, clear plastic package. It is sensitive to visible and near-infrared radiation and has a small sensitive area, which is an advantage in radiation detection, as the background rate due to cosmic rays is very low, and signals from small samples will be easier to detect than when a counter tube is used.

The behavior of the BPW34 PIN photodiode used in the project is similar to that of a low-cost counter tube in the sense that, while alpha particles may be stopped by the enclosure of the device, gamma rays due to their high penetration ability will pass through and create electron-hole pairs in the depletion layer of the diode. This will lead to the charge carriers in the diode being drawn away and a small current pulse being created. The small current pulse can then be amplified and processed to determine radiation levels.”

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