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Introduction to Radiation Detectors

  1. Claus Grupen

Published Online: 15 JUN 2009

DOI: 10.1002/3527600434.eap657

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

How to Cite

Grupen, C. 2009. Introduction to Radiation Detectors. Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. 1–26.

Author Information

  1. Siegen University, Department of Physics, Siegen, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUN 2009


The purpose of radiation detectors is to count and measure charged and neutral particles and to determine their characteristic properties, such as momentum, energy, and velocity. Based on these properties the particles can be identified. Charged particles are mostly detected via their ionization. By suitable conversion techniques, photons, neutrons, and neutrinos can also be recorded.

Originally particle detectors were used in cosmic rays and nuclear and particle physics. Meanwhile these devices have found applications in medicine, biology, environmental science, metrology, radiation protection, oil exploration, civil engineering, archaeology, and arts, to name a few. While the most sophisticated detectors are still developed for particle physics and astroparticles, practical applications often require robust devices, which also function in harsh environments.

In this article the interactions of charged and neutral particles are described, and the main detector techniques to measure elementary particles and nuclei are presented.


  • particle detectors;
  • electromagnetic interactions;
  • cosmic rays;
  • Bethe–Bloch formula;
  • charge carriers;
  • drift velocity;
  • Cherenkov counters;
  • electron–hole pairs;
  • particle identification;
  • calorimeters;
  • energy resolution;
  • spatial resolution;
  • imaging counters