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The effect of elemental and hydrocarbon impurities on mercuric iodide gamma ray detector performance

Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A Accelerators Spectrometers Detectors and Associated Equipment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0168-9002(96)00296-3
  • Section I. Growth And Material Properties


Abstract Mercuric iodide is a room temperature semiconductor material that is used for gamma ray and x-ray radiation detection. Mercuric iodide is synthesized from mercuric chloride and potassium iodide and is then purified by a series of melts and sublimation steps and by zone refining. The mercuric iodide is grown into crystals and platelets and then fabricated into detectors. Elemental contamination may be a determining factor in the performance of these detectors. These contaminates may be present in the starting material or may be introduced during, or be unaffected by, the purification, growth or fabrication steps. Methods have been developed for the analysis of trace levels of elemental contamination. Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectroscopy (ICP/MS), Inductively Coupled Plasma/Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP/OES) and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS) are used to determine sub ppm levels of many trace elemental impurities. Trace levels of many elemental impurities in the raw mercuric iodide are significantly reduced during the purification and zone refining processes. Though the levels of impurities are reduced, poor performing mercuric iodide detectors have contamination levels remaining or reintroduced which are higher for Ag, Al, Ca, Cu, Mg, Mn, Na, Pb and Zn than detectors with good gamma ray response. This paper will discuss the analytical methodology, the effects of purification on impurity levels, and the correlation between detector performance and impurity levels.

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