Full characterization and calibration of a transfer standard monitor for atmospheric radon measurements

Curcoll, Roger; Grossi, Claudia; Röttger, Stefan; Vargas, Arturo

In this work, a full characterization of the new user-friendly version of the Atmospheric Radon MONitor (ARMON), used to measure very low activity concentrations of the radioactive radon gas in the outdoor atmosphere, is carried out. The ARMON is based on the electrostatic collection of inline-formula218Poinline-formula+ particles on a semiconductor detector surface. A main advantage of this instrument is that it offers high-resolution alpha-energy spectra, which will allow us to separate radon progeny (inline-formula210Po, inline-formula218Po, and inline-formula214Po). The monitor feature may also allow measurements of thoron (inline-formula220Rn) by collection of inline-formula216Poinline-formula+, although the instrument is not calibrated for this gas.

In the paper, the physical principle; the hardware configuration; and the software development of the automatic and remotely controlled ARMON, conceived and constructed within the MARinline-formula2EA and the traceRadon projects, are described. The monitor efficiency and its linearity over a wide span of radon concentration activities have been evaluated and tested here using theoretical and experimental approaches. Finally, a complete budget analysis of the total uncertainty of the monitor was also achieved.

Results from the application of a simplified theoretical approach show a detection efficiency for inline-formula218Poinline-formula+ of about 0.0075 (Bq minline-formula−3)inline-formula−1 sinline-formula−1. The experimental approach, consisting of exposing the ARMON at controlled radon concentrations between a few hundreds to a few thousands of becquerels per cubic metre (Bq minline-formula−3), gives a detection efficiency for inline-formula218Poinline-formula+ of 0.0057 inline-formula± 0.0002 (Bq minline-formula−3) sinline-formula−1. This last value and its independence from the radon levels were also confirmed thanks to a new calibration method which allows us, using low-emanation sources, to obtain controlled radon levels of a few tens of becquerels per cubic metre (Bq minline-formula−3).

The total uncertainty of the ARMON detection efficiency obtained for hourly radon concentrations above 5 Bq minline-formula−3 was lower than 10 % (inline-formulak= 1). The characteristic limits of the ARMON – being those dependent on the presence of thoron in the sampled air – were also calculated. A detection limit of 0.132 Bq minline-formula−3 was estimated in the absence of thoron. At a typical thoron concentration at atmospheric sites of 0.017 mininline-formula−1, the detection limit was calculated to be 0.3 Bq minline-formula−3, but this can be reduced if using a delay volume, obtaining a decision threshold of 0.0045 Bq minline-formula−3. Current results may allow us to confirm that the ARMON is suitable to measure low-level radon activity concentrations (1–100 Bq minline-formula−3) and to be used as a transfer standard to calibrate secondary atmospheric radon monitors.



Curcoll, Roger / Grossi, Claudia / Röttger, Stefan / et al: Full characterization and calibration of a transfer standard monitor for atmospheric radon measurements. 2024. Copernicus Publications.


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