Characterization and Applications of a CdZnTe-Based Multimode Imager
Detection of electromagnetic radiation in the form of gamma rays provides a means to discover the presence of nuclear sources and the occurrence of highly-energetic events that occur in our terrestrial and astrophysical environment. The highly penetrative nature of
gamma rays allows for probing into objects and regions that are obscured at other wavelengths. The detection and imaging of gamma rays relies upon an understanding of the ways in which these high-energy photons interact with matter.
The applications of gamma-ray detection and imaging are numerous. Astrophysical observation of gamma rays expands our understanding of the Universe in which we live. Terrestrial detection and imaging of gamma rays enable environmental monitoring of radioactivity. This allows for identification and localization of nuclear materials to prevent illicit trafficking and to ultimately protect against harmful acts. Additionally, terrestrial-based detection is essential, for example, in monitoring the widespread contamination within the Fukushima prefecture in Japan as a result of a nuclear power plant accident.
This dissertation focusses on the development and characterization of a gamma-ray detection and imaging instrument and explores its capabilities for the aforementioned applications. The High Efficiency Multimode Imager, HEMI, is a prototype instrument that is based on Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CdZnTe) semiconductor detectors. The detectors are arranged in a two-planar configuration to allow for both Compton and coded-aperture imaging. The front plane consists of active detectors in a random mask pattern to serve simultaneously as a coded mask and a Compton scatter plane, thus providing high detection efficiency. The use of multimode imaging extends the energy range to allow for localization of sources with gamma-ray emissions from tens of keV to a few MeV. HEMI was initially developed as a prototype instrument to demonstrate its capabilities for nuclear threat detection, spectroscopy, and imaging. The 96-detector instrument was developed and fully characterized within the laboratory environment, yielding a system energy resolution of 2.4% FWHM at 662 keV, an angular resolution of 9.5 deg. FWHM at 662 keV in Compton mode, and a 10.6 deg. angular resolution in coded aperture mode. After event cuts, the effective area for Compton imaging of the 662 keV photopeak is 0.1 cm 22. Imaging of point sources in both Compton and coded aperture modes have been demonstrated. The minimum detectable activity of a 137Cs at a 20 m distance with 20 seconds of observation time is estimated to be 0.2 mCi in spectral mode and 20 mCi in Compton imaging mode.These performance parameters fulfilled the requirements of the nuclear security program.
Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident of March, 2011, efficient methods to assess levels of radioactive contamination over large areas are needed to aid in clean-up efforts. Although a field study was not initially intended for the HEMI prototype, its portability, low mass, and low power requirements made it a good candidate to test Compton imaging from an aerial platform. The instrument was brought to Japan in August, 2013, allowing for the first test of a Compton imager from a helicopter. The instrument and detectors proved reliable and performed well under high temperature, high humidity, and vibrations. Single-detector hit energy resolutions ranged from 2.5 - 2.8% FWHM at 662 keV. The field testing of the HEMI instrument in Fukushima revealed areas of higher activity of cesium among a diffuse background through aerial-based countrate mapping and through ground measurements. Although the Compton reconstructed events were dominated by
random coincidences, preliminary Compton imaging results are promising.
A future mission in medium-energy gamma-ray astrophysics would allow for many scientific advancements, e.g., a possible explanation for the excess positron emission from the Galactic Center, a better understanding of nucleosynthesis and explosion mechanisms in
Type Ia supernovae, and a look at the physical forces at play in compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars. A next-generation telescope requires good energy resolution, good angular resolution, and high sensitivity in order to achieve these objectives. Large-volume CdZnTe detectors are an attractive candidate for a future instrument because of their good absorption, simple design, and minimal or no cooling requirements. Using the benchmarked HEMI CdZnTe detectors, a Compton telescope with a passive coded mask was designed and simulated with the goal of creating a very sensitive instrument that is capable of high angular resolution. The simulated telescope showed achievable energy resolutions of 1.68% FWHM at 511 keV and 1.11% at 1809 keV, on-axis angular resolutions in Compton mode of 2.63 deg. FWHM at 511 keV and 1.30 deg. FWHM at 1809 keV, and is capable of resolving sources to at least 0.2 deg. at lower energies with the use of the coded mask. An initial assessment of the instrument yields an effective area of 183 cm 2 at 511 keV and an anticipated all-sky sensitivity of 3.6 x 10 -6 photons/cm2/s for a broadened 511 keV source over a 2 year observation time. Additionally, combining a coded mask with a Compton imager to improve point source localization for positron detection has been demonstrated.