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Design and implementation of the front-end for a portable ionizing radiation detector

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Signals from Ionizing particles on semiconductor detector


Ionizing particles impinging on devices undergo different types of electromagnetic and/or nuclear interactions. This results in the deposition of energy (charge) along the ionization track that may be sufficient to produce either a temporary malfunction (e.g. bit flip in a SRAM memory), or a catastrophic failure of the device (e.g. Single Event Burnout in high power devices). Since the interaction of ionizing particles with matter is a random process and critical events are quite rare, the simulation, the design, and the operation of robust and reliable devices require an accurate statistical description of the energy (charge) deposited during each event and under realistic conditions.

As an example, the rapid growth of the power semiconductor market in recent years has been driven by the proliferation of new applications in the field of hybrid & electric vehicles, aerospace, renewable energies, as well as in power generation and transmission. In this scenario, power device reliability is becoming a primary challenge requiring new approaches in terms of device physics, device modelling, physics of failure, thermal management, lifetime and robustness validation techniques, and accelerated test procedures.

Short Description

In present case, the spectrometry chain basically consists of a semiconductor detector, of a signal conditioning block of a fast analog-to-digital converter, as well as of a stage for data storage and processing. At present, commercially spectrometers are very performant, however they are less suited for portable applications.

The scope of present work is the development of the front end for a portable detector of ionizing radiation in the high-energy range. In particular, the work is aimed to re-design the pre-amplifier, the pulse shaping unit, and the online control unit of an existing prototype by the use of commercially available devices and controllers. Special attention has to be paid to the volume, weight, and battery supply of the front-end unit.

Signals acquired from detectors


The front-end unit to be re-designed consists of an analog stage (pre-amplifier, pulse-shaper, peak detector, power supply), as well as a digital controller (e.g. Arduino due). Both components need to be optimized, including the development of the software for the controller.

• Get acquainted with the electronics for spectrometry
• Get acquainted with the existing spectrometer
• Re-design of the pre-amplifier (including simulation)
• Re-design of the pulse-shaping unit (including simulation)
• Re-design of the pulse-height detector (including simulation)
• Programming of the controller to implement following functions:
• Analog-to-digital conversion
• Event counter
• Monitoring of the power supply
• Implementation and demonstration of the unit


• EE students or in experimental physics

Status: Available

• Looking for 1-2 interested students in Electrical Engineering or Experimental Physics (semester project, Master's thesis).
• Contact: Dr. Mauro Ciappa Marco Pocaterra
• -> ETHZ IIS H.78


Dr. Mauro Ciappa
Marco Pocaterra


Mathieu Luisier

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