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Cs-137 Benchtop Irradiator

The NRL benchtop irradiator is used for research and development and for educational activities. These activities may include:

  • Observation of radiation effects on materials and devices.
  • Inducement of radiation effects in materials and devices, with subsequent investigation and/or utilization of the effects.
  • Demonstration of operation of radiation detectors, and their behavior in high-dose gamma radiation fields.

No irradiation of explosive, flammable, or corrosive materials, or of food destined for human consumption is allowed.

Experiments or samples are put in a shielded drawer for insertion into the irradiation area, and the drawer has through-tubes that allow wires to be run out of the irradiator for in-situ measurements during the irradiation. The space for sample irradiations is 7.75 inch in length by 3.75 inch in diameter.


Instrumented experiment in the Cs-137 benchtop irradiator with filter box and cable tubes
Instrumented experiment in the Cs-137 benchtop irradiator

Because a common use for the benchtop irradiator has been irradiation of electronics parts for radiation damage testing, a filter box has been designed and built using the guidance in ASTM E1249-10, 'Standard Practice for Minimizing Dosimetry Errors in Radiation Hardness Testing of Silicon Electronic Devices Using Co-60 Sources', in order to minimize low energy photon absorbed-dose enhancement effects. The board size to fit in the filter box is 2 inch wide by up to 5.5 inch long, and parts should not be mounted within 1/8 inch of any of the board edges.


Electronic board mounted in low-energy filter box for benchtop irradiator experiment
Benchtop irradiator filter box

Per, cesium-137 has a half-life of 30.1 years, and its decay results in the emission of a 662-keV gamma 85.0% of the time. (Cs-137 decays by beta minus emission to the ground state of Ba-137 [5.6%] and to the 662-keV isomeric level of Ba-137 [94.4%], which has a half-life of 2.55 min. Isomeric Ba-137 emits a 662 keV gamma 90.0% of the time.)

The approximate dose rate in silicon at the peak location is: