The measurement of radioactivity by direct conversion of nuclear radiation into a temperature rise of a calorimeter is as old as nuclear physics itself. As part of a general programme aiming at a determination of the mass of the electron neutrino, we have designed an improved version of a He-cooled composite diamond bolometer with a monolithic germanium thermistor, developed at the Laboratoire de Physique Stellaire et Planetaire (LPSP)1. Our approach, based on an idea by De Rujula2, is to study the shape, near the upper end-point of the internal bremsstrahlung spectrum in electron-capture β decay. The best nucleus for a precise measurement seems to be 163Ho, for which we have determined3 the QEC value to be 2.83±0.05 keV. A particularly interesting possibility is to use total absorption spectrometry4 (calorimetry), in which the radioactive holmium forms part of the sensitive volume of the detector. With 5-6-MeV α particles impinging on the diamond wafer of the bolometer, a full-width-at-half-maximum (FWHM) of 36 keV was obtained at a temperature of 1.3 K. The theoretical resolution at 100 mK is a few electron-volts, so this new detection technique should give greatly enhanced energy resolution compared with present solid-state conductors based on charge carrier collection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas