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Gamma Spectroscopy

Gamma spectroscopy is the science (or art) of identification and/or quantification of radionuclides by analysis of the gamma-ray energy spectrum produced in a gamma-ray spectrometer.

It is a widely used technique, well illustrated by the following list of examples: 

- Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring 
- Health Physics Personnel Monitoring 
- Reactor Corrosion Monitoring 
- Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Homeland Security       
- Forensics and Nuclear Forensics 
- Materials Testing 
- Geology and Mineralogy 
- Nuclear Medicine and Radiopharmaceuticals 
- Industrial Process  

Gamma Spectroscopy Detectors

Broadly, spectroscopic gamma ray detectors and spectrometers are of two types, high resolution, based exclusively on cryogenically cooled germanium (HPGe) detectors or medium to low energy resolution based on scintillators or room temperature semiconductors.  In the examples below, the left-most spectrum is from a scintillation detector and the right hand one is from an HPGe detector. 

 LDM Spectrum 1LDM Spectrum 2

ORTEC is a world leader in the manufacture of HPGe detectors and in the cooling of these detectors with cryo-coolers, having lead this technology since the early 1980’s with a string of innovations in crystal, cryostat and cooling technologies.

More about HPGe Detectors. . .  

Scintillation Detectors

Thallium-doped sodium iodide NaI(Tl) is the most commonly used spectroscopic scintillation gamma-ray detector material. Detectors based on this material have energy resolution perhaps 45 to 50 times worse than typical HPGe detectors, but they offer the benefit of lower cost, potentially larger sizes and room temperature operation. More recently, Lanthanum Halide based scintillators have become available, offering much improved energy resolution. (On the order of a factor two over NaI(Tl).) While neither type offers energy resolution comparable to HPGe, it is the needs and constraints of the application which define the optimum choice of spectroscopic gamma-ray detector.

More about Scintillation Detectors. . .

Electronic Hardware 
The essence of a spectroscopic photon detector is that it provides an output pulse which is proportional to and ideally in linear proportion to the energy of the gamma ray detected. After suitable amplification and noise filtering, this pulse can be “histogrammed” in a multichannel analyzer to create the familiar gamma-ray spectrum. ORTEC offers a wide range of both modular and integrated electronics to support these requirements as well as an exciting range of “ALL-IN-ONE” gamma spectrometers.
More about Multichannel Analyzers.
Gamma Spectroscopy Software

Software specifically designed to meet the needs of the application in hand is a key element of a good measurement system. ORTEC offers a wide range of hardware in the form of radiation detector and data acquisition systems. It is often the application software which turns the “hardware into the solution”, and ORTEC has software covering a broad spectrum of nuclear measurement applications, often providing integrated hardware control, display and analysis in a single package.

  • General purpose MCA software for a wide variety of uses: MAESTRO-32
  • Counting Laboratory and Health Physics Applications
    • Advanced Gamma Spectroscopy with HPGe Detectors: GammaVision-32
    • Advanced Scintillation Detector Spectrometry: ScintiVision-32
    • Alpha Spectrometry with Si Charged Particle Detectors: AlphaVision-32
    • Custom Report Generators
    • Counting Lab Automation products
    • Efficiency Transfer (ET) Calibration Codes: ANGLE-B32
    • Nuclide Library Data Base Manager: Nuclide Navigator
    • Whole Body Counting with NaI and Ge Detectors: Renaissance-32
  • Waste Assay and Nuclear Safeguards
    • In Situ Spectroscopy for site characterization and containerized waste: ISOPLUS-B32
    • Isotopic Ratio Determination of U and Pu (LLNL License): MGA-B32
    • Isotopic Ratio Determination of U and Pu (LANL License): PC/FRAM-B32
    • UF6 Cylinder Verification
    • Nuclear Materials Holdup: HMS-4
    • Neutron Safeguards Applications: INCC-B32
  • Homeland Security
    • Chemical Weapons Identification: PINS
    • Radionuclide Search System: NaI-SS-B32
    • Detective® Indentifier codes
    • Portal Monitor Codes
    • Neutron Source Identification: Fission Meter
  • Developer Support
    • “CONNECTIONS” MCA Communications Toolkit: A11-B32
    • Analysis Results Toolkit: A12-B32

More about ORTEC Applications Software. . .


The all-in-one HPGe Gamma Spectrometer is a recent and growing innovation from ORTEC. Our rapid development of electromechanical cooling for these systems has been the enabling technology. 
An all-in-one integrated HPGe spectrometer offers great benefits in many applications:

  • No liquid nitrogen coolant required
  • Simplicity of operation
  • Compact Size
  • Possible Portability
  • Increased reliability due to fewer interconnecting cables
  • Thermally efficient Stirling coolers reduce waste heat

Interchangeable Detector Module (IDM)

Ideal for applications such as waste assay and portal monitoring systems.
  • Large area 85 mm x 30 mm HPGe crystal.
  • High-reliability Stirling cycle cooler cools rapidly to operating temperature.
  • Hardened cryostat designed for long operational life.
  • Can be temperature cycled at any time, even from partial warm up.
  • High performance, digitally stable signal processing.
  • “Hot swap” of IDM modules while in operational state – reduced downtime.
  • USB 2.0 data communications.
  • Continuous data collection, no dead spots, using list mode.
  • Low power consumption.
  • Low Frequency Rejector (LFR) improves spectrum resolution in noisyenvironments.
Download the IDM data sheet.


The quality of a laboratory HPGe spectrometer in a convenient field-proven package. 

  • Amazingly light 15 lb (6.8 kg).
  • Tough — Enclosure, Display, and all connections sealed against moisture and dust.Water spray resistant.
  • High Sensitivity — 50mm Ø x 30mm HPGe detector.
  • High Stability — Digital electronics.
  • Bright and Clear — VGA display with touch sensitive operator screen.
  • Smart — On board ROI-based Nuclide ID and activity calculation.
  • Well Connected — USB 2.0 and Wireless 802.11, GPS, and SD card storage of acquired spectra.
  • Flexible — Multiple choice of power sources: internal and external battery, automobile power, line power; all with automatic switchover.
  • No LN2 Required — Miniature, high-efficiency, "run for ever" Stirling-cycle cooler; detector element is sealed in a high-reliability, low-loss cryostat.
Download the Micro-trans-SPEC data sheet.
Micro-Detective - Micro-trans-SPEC


In-situ High Purity Germanium (HPGe) gamma spectroscopy, in a digital, battery powered instrument.
  • No LN2 — Miniature, high-reliability, "run for ever" Stirling-cycle cooler eliminates the need for LIQUID NITROGEN; detector element is encapsulated in high reliability, low loss, all-metal sealed cryostat.
  • High Sensitivity — Large (>40% relative efficiency) HPGe detector.
  • High Stability — Digital electronics give you the solution for the toughest analysis in the toughest conditions.
  • Bright and Clear — VGA resolution display with touch sensitive operator screen.
  • All-in-one Integrated Package — Rugged and compact with no interconnections — easy to setup and go.
  • Smart — Nuclide ID and activity calculation for nine Regions of Interest (ROI).
  • Well Connected — USB 2.0 and Wireless 802.11 Communications, built-in GPS, and Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) storage of acquired spectra.
  • Flexible — A variety of power sources can be used, including internal battery, supplemental external battery, automobile battery (any 12 V dc), and line power; all with automatic switchover.
Download the trans-SPEC-DX-100T data sheet.

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