Radiation Protection, Dosimetry, and Detectors (SH2603), 6 hp

Course Coordinator/Lecturer/Examinator: Torbjörn Bäck

Next course starts
10.00, September 2, 2013, Albanova, FE21
Next written exam:
October 29, 2013, 08.00-13.00, FB53, Albanova

The preliminary schedule is available in the timeedit (see www.kth.se). A more detailed (and updated) schedule is available (from late August / early September) in the KTH course web (KTH/Social) for students registered to the course.

Nuclear Physics
Tel: 08 - 5537 8041
E-mail: back@nuclear.kth.se

Course Code: SH2603
Credits: 6 hp
Level: D
Grades: A,B,C,D,E,F,Fx
Language: English

Compulsory Course the Master Programme in Nuclear Energy Engineering
Elective Course for the Master Programme in Modern Physics

The course is scheduled in Period 1 (September+October)
Lectures: 16 hours
Problem Solving Exercises: 16 hours
Lab. Exercises 20 hours

Course Coordinator
Torbjörn Bäck

Course Web Page: http://www.nuclear.kth.se/courses/SH2603/index.html


A solid background in mathematics as well as a basic knowledge in modern physics, corresponding to a Bachelor of Science is required. The course is designed for students from a wide spectrum of subject background (physics, mechanical engineering, energy technology, electrical engineering, etc, etc).

Course Objectives

This is a course in radiation physics with theory and applications in detection of ionising radiation, radiation protection, and dosimetry.

The course is designed as a preparatory course for other courses in the neighbouring fields, preparing the student both for laboratory exercises where radioactive sources are used, and for solving problems involving basic radiation physics and radiation protection elements.

A main learning objective for this course is that the student should be able to use the gained knowledge in nuclear- and radiation physics as a tool for calculating and estimating the dose absorbed in the body after being exposed by radioactive material in a specific situation. Together with knowledge about the interaction between matter and radiation, the biological effects of radiation, and knowledge about the current regulations on radiation protection, the student will in addition be able to use these tools to make adequate choices for radiation protection in situations that will occur in their future courses, and in their future professional career.

To pass the course, the student must be able to:

  • describe the basic parts and general attributes of the atomic nucleus.
  • explain the origin of alpha- beta- and gamma radiation and give a few examples of the origin of neutron radiation.
  • explain how ionising radiation of the above types interact with matter, and be able to apply this knowledge when designing radiation protection in various circumstances.
  • give several examples of radioactivity in nature and explain the origin of the radiation.
  • explain the principles for detecting radiation of the various types, and be able to apply this knowledge for measuring radiation from radioactive materials.
  • give an account for the basic regulations of dose limits, and be able to apply these rules for work in the laboratory as well as in the field.
  • estimate, using calculations, the full body dose, from exposure of various radioactive sources, and from the results make adequate choices for the design of radiation protection.
  • present, orally and in writing, results from lab measurements, calculations, and project studies, within the subject of the course.
For a higher grade, you must be able to solve more complex problems where the above objectives are applied.


The contents of the course are focused on ionising radiation, its origin and effects.

Theoretical models of the atomic nucleus, giving basic understanding of the various radiation types will be discussed. In connection to that, the basic building blocks and attributes of the nucleus are described. The basic models for the interaction between radiation and matter will be discussed in some detail. The effect of radiation on the human body is treated briefly.

The knowledge from the parts above is then applied when discussing dosimetry and radiation protection. The basic units of dosimetry are listed, as well as the current regulations for radiation protection, e.g. dose limits, when working with closed or open radioactive sources.


The course is scheduled in period 1 (September+October). A preliminary scedule is available in the KTH Scheduling system timeedit. A detailed (updated) schedule will be available for registered students in the course.

Schedule for the laboratory exercises will be presented som time after the course starts, because it depends on the number of course participants.


The course includes about 14-16 hours of lectures.

Problem Exercises

The course includes about 16 hours of class room problem exercises where you have the opportunity to practice problem solving and perform calculations of e.g. activity, radiation dose, and radiation protection design. Teachers will be present during these exercises, but the focus is on students solving the problems themselves.

Report Seminars

The report seminars are scheduled meetings where the students can work with improving their reports (lab reports and project reports). With the help of other students feedback all students can find ways of improving their writing skills. More info on this will be available in Bilda.

Project Task

A project task is performed in groups of four students. the project is to be presented orally on the seminar day. In addition, the project should be presented in a report, to be handed in (reviewed by another group) on the seminar day.

Examples of project tasks (see below for projects of 2007 and 2008)

Project Presentation Seminar

A seminar day will be planned at the end of the course. The projects should be presented by one person from the group, and that person is selected by the course coordinator just before the presentation. Each presentation should take around 20 minutes. A more detailed schedule will be presented a few days before the seminar day (in Bilda).
Examples of subjects (from students of 2007 and 2008):
  • Build your own ionisation chamber
  • Build your own cloud chamber
  • Neutrons and BNCT
  • Using music CD:s as alpha particle detectors
  • Radon measurement indoors, using activated carbon
  • Measurements of background radiation with a mobile detector
  • Measurements of radioactivity in mushrooms from different sites in Europe
  • Measurement of angular distribution of cosmic radiation
  • Measurement of Sr90 activity in mushrooms, using beta spectroscopy

Laboratory Exercises

The course contains five laboratory exercises (4 hours per exercise), where the students will measure radiation for various radioactive sources:
  1. Absorption of Gamma Radiation
  2. Beta Decay, and Absorption of Electrons
  3. Alpha Decay and Spontaneous Fission
  4. Neutron Activation

During each lab. exercise, the origin of the radiation, as well as the different principles for its detection will be discussed. In some cases, we will see how the energy spectrum of the radiation can reveal the properties of the atomic nucleus. In some of the exercises, the students will work experimentally to find adequate radiation protection for some of the radiation types. The results will be connected to the theory of the interaction between radiation and matter, as well as to dose estimation and dose limit regulations.

The lab. exercises will be performed in groups of two students, and the measurement and its result should later be presented in a written report from each exercise. The reports should be of high quality. The scheduled report seminars are intended for all students to improve their report writing skills.

Lab. instructions will be available in Bilda and should be read before attending the lab.


The student has passed the course if, and only if, all the following four criteria are fulfilled:
  • Passed written exam (3 hp)
  • Passed project task (2 hp)
  • Passed laboratory exercises (1 hp)
The project task should be performed in groups of 2-4 students, and be presented both orally and in written form (report).

Course Literature

Course Compendium (latest version available in Bilda for registered students)
Text Book: Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection (J.E. Turner)
Problem Exercises (latest version available in Bilda for registered students)

Recommended reading (but not compulsory):
Nuclear Physics (Krane)
Techniques for Nuclear and Particle Physics Experiments, (W.R.Leo)

Written Exam

Time and location for next written exam: See top of this web page.

The written exam will take place in the end of the course. The duration is five hours. The exam consists of a number of problems that the student should solve. The problems should reflect the course objectives, so that the result on the exam is a measure of how well the student have been able to fulfill the course objectives

For general rules about the exams at KTH, please read the document: Rules and responsibilities for students at KTH. It can be found at kth student web of the main KTH web page.

You can bring pens and a calculator to the exam. It is not allowed to store information (formulas, text, etc) related to the course in the calculator. You should not bring any paper.

The exam is divided in two sections (A and B). Each section consists of number of problems/questions. Section A consists of ten (10) problems. You can get one point per problem on section A. Section B consists of four (4) problems. You can get a maximum of 3 pointer per problem in section B. To pass the exam, you need at least 6 points from section A and (in addition) at least 4 points from section B. The student should solve as many problems as possible. If the student fail to pass the exam according to the rule above (6p in sec. A + 4p in sec. B), the grade will be F (failed). Otherwise, the grade is determined by the total number of points according to the following rule:

A: 20-22 points
B: 18-19 points
C: 15-17 points
D: 13-14 points
E: 11-12 points
F (failed): 0-9 points
Fx (failed, but with possibility to complement): 10 points

Old Exams with Solutions:

Exam October 25, 2007
Exam October 25, 2007, Solutions
Exam January 14, 2008
Exam January 14, 2008, Solutions
Exam June 10, 2008
Exam June 10, 2008, Solutions
Exam October 23, 2008
Exam October 23, 2008, Solutions
Exam February 10, 2009
Exam February 10, 2009, Solutions

Changed 2012-08-24 by Torbjörn Bäck.