Experimental Modern and Quantum Physics for Do-It-Yourself Science Enthusiasts 

Facebook Flickr LinkedIn YouTube RSS
Home Book Chapters Chapter 3 - Atoms and Radioactvity Converting a DT-590A/PDR-56F “X-Ray” Probe into a General-Purpose NaI(Tl) Gamma Probe

Converting a DT-590A/PDR-56F “X-Ray” Probe into a General-Purpose NaI(Tl) Gamma Probe

PDR56 probe modification for general-purpose gamma detection

The military Radiac Set, AN/PDR-56 is a portable scintillation type instrument used for detection of alpha contamination. The system includes a large and small interchangeable probe with a probe extension.  This system is being phased out by the US Air Force, so new probes are becoming widely available in the surplus market.

The “x-ray” probe for the AN/PDR-56 uses a CaF2(Eu) scintillator/photomultiplier combination to detect the 14-21 keV gammas from Pu-239. The x-ray probe is an assembly which includes the amplifier-discriminator circuits integral to the phototube scintillator housing. The discriminator is a single channel analyzer adjusted to detect Pu-239 gamma rays.

I modified the probe by replacing the replace the CaF2(Eu) by a more conventional NaI(Tl), giving the probe a much wider detection energy range (100keV to 1.3MeV gamma).  The following pdf  file gives detailed instructions for the modification, as well as on how to trim the electronics to expand the discrimination window: dt590_to_nai

The probe works great! Using a 1″ dia x 2″ long NaI(Tl) crystal and setting the discrimination floor at 100keV, I have a background count of ~800 CPM. I get 10,000 CPM from a 10uCi Cs-137 checksource from 2′ away.

Click here for the PDR-56F scintillation radiac set’s repair manual.


Please visit www.prutchi.com and www.diyPhysics.com for other cutting-edge d.i.y. projects, and remember to check out our new d.i.y. Quantum Physics book:

 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Share on LinkedIn
5 Comments  comments 

5 Responses

  1. […] window wide open to make the probe sensitive to a much wider range of gamma energies. In addition, you can replace the CaF2(Eu) crystal by a NaI(Tl) scintillation crystal assembly. This will turn the instrument into a general-purpose gamma radiation detector that will outperform […]

  2. J. Marshall Reber

    The PDR-56F repair manual referenced above is missing schematic fold out FO-1. Have you been able to acquire it subsequently?

  3. Peter

    Is there any alternative scintillator crystals with large energy resolution? It seems that NaI(Ti) crystals are not so easy to obtain in Sweden at a reasonable price. Could a so called LSO/LYSO crystal replace a NaI(Ti) crystal?

    Best Regards,