TH-AB-201-06: Examining the Influence of Humidity On Reference Ion Chamber Performance




International dosimetry protocols require measurements made with a vented ionization chamber to be corrected for the influence of air density by using the standard temperature-pressure correction factor. The effect of humidity, on the other hand, is generally ignored with the provision that the relative humidity is between certain limits (15% to 80%). However, there is little experimental data in the published literature as to the true effect of humidity on modern reference-class ion chambers. This investigation used two different radiation beams – a Co-60 irradiator and a Sr-90 check source – to examine the effect of humidity on several versions of the standard Farmer-type ion chamber.


An environmental cabinet controlled the humidity. For the Co-60 beam, the irradiation was external, whereas for the Sr-90 measurements, the source itself was placed within the cabinet. Extensive measurements were carried out to ensure that the experimental setup provided reproducible readings. Four chamber types were investigated: IBA FC65-G (×2), IBA FC65-P, PTW30013 & Exradin A19. The different wall materials provided potentially different mechanical responses (i.e., in terms of expansion/contraction) to the water content in the air. The relative humidity was varied between 8 % and 97 % and measurements were made with increasing and decreasing humidity to investigate possible hysteresis effects.


Measurements in Co-60 were consistent with the published data obtained with primary standard cavity chambers in ICRU Report 31. Ionization currents with Sr-90 showed no dependence with the relative humidity, within the measurement uncertainties. Very good repeatability of the ionization current was obtained over successive wet/dry cycles, no hysteresis was observed, and there was no dependence on chamber type.


This null result is very encouraging as it indicates that humidity has no significant effect on these particular types of ionization chambers, consistent with recommendations in current megavoltage dosimetry protocols.