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Electron Trajectory Reconstruction for Advanced Compton Imaging of Gamma Rays

  • Author(s): Plimley, Brian Christopher
  • Advisor(s): Vetter, Kai
  • et al.

Gamma-ray imaging is useful for detecting, characterizing, and localizing sources in a variety of fields, including nuclear physics, security, nuclear accident response, nuclear medicine, and astronomy. Compton imaging in particular provides sensitivity to weak sources and good angular resolution in a large field of view. However, the photon origin in a single event sequence is normally only limited to the surface of a cone. If the initial direction of the Compton-scattered electron can be measured, the cone can be reduced to a cone segment with width depending on the uncertainty in the direction measurement, providing a corresponding increase in imaging sensitivity.

Measurement of the electron's initial direction in an efficient detection material requires very fine position resolution due to the electron's short range and tortuous path. A thick (650 μm), fully-depleted charge-coupled device (CCD) developed for infrared astronomy has 10.5-μm position resolution in two dimensions, enabling the initial trajectory measurement of electrons of energy as low as 100 keV. This is the first time the initial trajectories of electrons of such low energies have been measured in a solid material. In this work, the CCD's efficacy as a gamma-ray detector is demonstrated experimentally, using a reconstruction algorithm to measure the initial electron direction from the CCD track image. In addition, models of fast electron interaction physics, charge transport and readout were used to generate modeled tracks with known initial direction. These modeled tracks allowed the development and refinement of the reconstruction algorithm. The angular sensitivity of the reconstruction algorithm is evaluated extensively with models for tracks below 480 keV, showing a FWHM as low as 20° in the pixel plane, and 30° RMS sensitivity to the magnitude of the out-of-plane angle.

The measurement of the trajectories of electrons with energies as low as 100 keV have the potential to make electron track Compton imaging an effective means of reducing image background for photons of energy as low as 500 keV, or even less.

The angular sensitivity of the reconstruction algorithm was also evaluated experimentally, by measuring electron tracks in the CCD in coincidence with the scattered photon in a germanium double-sided strip detector. By this method, electron tracks could be measured with the true initial direction known to within 3° FWHM, and the angular response of the algorithm compared to the known direction. The challenge of this experiment lay in the low geometric efficiency for photons scattering into the germanium, the poor time resolution in the current CCD implementation, and the resulting signal-to-background ratio of about 10-4 for photons scattered from the CCD into the germanium detector. Nonetheless, 87 events were measured in the FWHM of the total energy deposited and the angular resolution measure, with electron tracks between 160 keV and 360 keV in energy. The electron tracks from true coincident event sequences showed a FWHM in the pixel plane of 23°, and excellent agreement with the distribution calculated with models, with likelihood p-values of 0.44 and 0.73. Thus, the models used for the more thorough evaluation of angular sensitivities are shown to be consistent with the measured tracks from true coincident event sequences.

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