Summary

Principles of measuring radioactivity in geophysics are the same as in nuclear physics generally. But there are some special features: activities are extremely low, and sources have considerable extent in area and thickness. This article therefore deals with the problems of low-level counting many methods of which were developed especially for geophysical applications. Counting statistics lead to special consequences if the effect to be measured is smaller than the background: the figure of merit for a counting device (in general the ratio e/b, e source count, b background count) is now e 2 / b. Therefore to increase the efficiency is even more important than to reduce the background. Principles of achieving both are discussed. Measuring low activities takes long times to obtain sufficiently small statistical errors. That requires an extremely good long-time stability of the apparatus, especially of the electronics. Thick sources present particular problems for β-counting because of backscattering, selfabsorption and selfscattering. They are less critical with occounting, and with γ-counting they only sometimes deteriorate the geometrical efficiency of a device. The discussed principles of low-level counting are then applied to ionization chambers, Geiger counters, proportional counters, scintillation counters and photographic emulsions.

Sampling devices and conditions are discussed in general and for taking gas samples, aerosol samples, water samples and rock samples. The methods of measuring the radioactivity of these different kinds of samples are specified for individual substances of geophysical interest. The samples often contain a mixture of active substances or contributions of unwanted chemical elements. In many cases chemical separations cannot be avoided, first of all for pure β-emitters. A short review is given of radiochemical methods used for this purpose. For analyzing mixtures of radioactive substances by purely physical means decay-time and energy discrimination may be used, a- and y-spectroscopy are readily applicable to geophysical problems. But β-spectroscopy falls short because of the low specific activity of the samples. In some cases β-absorption may be measured.

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© Springer- Verlag OHG / Berlin · Göttingen · Heidelberg 1962

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  • G. Schumann

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