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I am designing an experiment where I need to trigger the release of an electron by a radioactive source (Sr-90).

The easy way to do it is to use a thin scintillator right after the source collimator. The problem is that it would interfere with the electron particle causing multiple scattering.

Do you know a better way to detect the presence of a single relativistic (E=200 KeV gamma=0.38) electron without interfering with it?

We are building a small chamber to measure the drift properties of electrons in various gas mixes. The chamber is similar to that described in ( I would like use the setup to measure the primary ionization yield of an electron in a mixture. The idea is to place a collimated Sr90 source in the gas volume, near the first plate. The beta electron travel at c toward the drift tube ionizing the gas. The electric field drift the ionized electrons toward the drift tube were they are collected and counted. The trigger is provided by a scintillator near the exit point of the electron from the camera (after the drift tube) in coincidence with the tube. Tube drift tube is somewhat noisy so I would like to have another trigger signal, preferably near the source collimator.

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One possible idea is to try and detect the fleeting magnetic field generated by the movement of the electron. The magnetic field is from a moving particle of charge e at a radius r = 1mm from the perticle is: B = -mu_0 * e / (4 * pi) * gamma *c / (r^2) = -0.0018 nano Tesla If I was to use a square coil of side l = 1cm the flux of the B field in the coil would be flux = l*B.integral(r,r_0,r_0+l) fem = flux / dt < 0.55 micro Volt using dt = l/c (which is too small, but it's just to get an upper value). With 100 loops and an amplifier I could see this on my oscilloscope... – muzzle Jan 23 '13 at 15:31
what do you want to use the electron for after you detect it? multiple scattering can be corrected . do you want to measure the momentum? In vacuum an electron traversing a magnetic field is turned and its momentum measured by the deflection. – anna v Jan 23 '13 at 15:49
The endpoint for that decay is $546\text{ keV}$, which is pretty low and kills a lot of the usual choices of techniques. @Anna's question becomes very important as a detector system can't be designed without knowing what you want to accomplish. – dmckee Jan 23 '13 at 16:24
Thanks for the feedback, I updated the question with a description of the experiment. As you can see I do not want to measure the electron momentum, but the specific ionization in the gas – muzzle Jan 24 '13 at 9:33

Have you built the instrument yet? If not I've had a brain storm which might solve the problem.


Your biggest difficulty here is that at those energies electrons will range out in less than $10 \text{ g/cm}^2$ (see the PDB), which means that putting a massive front side detector is a bad thing.

  • Cerenkov is out, your electrons are too slow.
  • Likewise for the usual transition radiation detectors (I'm not terribly familiar with these and can't say if there are low energy variants which would work).
  • Scintillation counters are much better than they used to be and you don't need a cm of plastic scintillator anymore: a couple of mm will do. But you have to make them light-tight so you're getting into a significant amount of straggling even so.
  • Solid state detectors might work, but tend to be expensive if you don't want a lot of mass.

So I started thinking about gas detectors. After all you will already have a container and you could afford a slightly longer gas volume.

A possibility

You could build a few simple sense wires at the front (entrance side) of the device and trigger on those. Of course, you must screen the test detector from the field associated with the trigger wires; a plane of grounded wire will do that. As you are only using these to trigger you can make them small and run in them in full saturation like a Geiger counter if you want. Use a small spacing to keep the delay down. Use two planes for fewer false triggers at the cost of some efficiency.

What you can't fix

Unless you have access to ta deep underground lab, you are going to have a problem with cosmic background. A top-and-sides array of hodoscopes as a veto is the usual hardware solution. Or you can take cosmics data in the absence of the source and subtract at the cost of longer running.

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Thanks a lot, we are investigating thin film scintillators (400nm) and the option of a mylar drift tube. – muzzle Jun 17 '13 at 16:24

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