Shape of intrinsic alpha pulse height spectra in lanthanide halide scintillators

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Internal contamination with actinium-227 and its daughters is a serious drawback in low-background applications of lanthanide-based scintillators. In this work we showed the important role of nuclear γ deexcitations on the shape of the internal alpha spectrum measured in scintillators. We calculated with Bateman equations the activities of contamination isotopes and the time evolution of actinium-227 and its progenies. Next, we measured the intrinsic background spectra of LaBr3(Ce), LaBr3(Ce,Sr) and CeBr3 with a digital spectroscopy technique, and we analyzed them with a pulse shape discrimination method (PSD) and a timeamplitude analysis. Finally, we simulated the α background spectrum with Geant4 tool-kit, consequently taking into account complex α-γ-electron events, the α/β ratio dependence on the α energy, and the electron/γ nonproportionality.
We found that α-γ mixed events have higher light yield than expected for alpha particles alone, which leads to overestimation of the α/β ratio when it is measured with internal 227Th and 223Ra isotopes. The time-amplitude analysis showed that the α peaks of 219Rn and 215Po in LaBr3(Ce) and LaBr3(Ce,Sr) are not symmetric. We compared the simulation results with the measured data and provided further evidence of the important role of mixed α-γ-electron events for understanding the shape of the internal α spectrum in scintillators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-74
Number of pages12
JournalNuclear Instruments & Methods in Physics Research. Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors, and Associated Equipment
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Scintillator
  • α/β ratio
  • Internal activity
  • 227Ac contamination
  • LaBr3:Ce
  • LaBr3:Ce,Sr
  • CeBr3

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