Examining the influence of humidity on reference ionization chamber performance

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Abstract

Purpose:

International dosimetry protocols require measurements made with a vented ionization chamber to be corrected for the influence of air density by using the standard temperature-pressure correction factor. The effect of humidity, on the other hand, is generally ignored with the provision that the relative humidity (RH) is within certain limits (typically 20% to 80%). However, there is little experimental data in the published literature as to the true effect of humidity on modern reference-class ionization chambers. This investigation used two different radiation beams – a Co-60 irradiator and an Sr-90 check source – to examine the effect of humidity on several Farmer-type ionization chambers.

Methods:

An environmental cabinet controlled the humidity. For the Co-60 beam, the irradiation was external, whereas for the Sr-90 measurements, the source itself was placed within the cabinet. Extensive measurements were carried out to ensure that the experimental setup provided reproducible readings. Four chamber types were investigated: IBA FC65-G, IBA FC65-P, PTW 30013 and Exradin A19. The different wall materials provided potentially different mechanical responses (i.e., in terms of expansion/contraction) to the water content in the air. The relative humidity was varied between 8% and 98% and measurements were made with both increasing and decreasing humidity to investigate any possible hysteresis effects.

Results:

Measurements in Co-60 were consistent with the published data obtained with primary standard cavity chambers in ICRU Report 31 (i.e., a very small variation <0.1% for RH >10%). The measurements in the Sr-90 field showed no dependence with the relative humidity, within the measurement uncertainties (0.05%, k = 1). Very good repeatability of the ionization current was obtained over successive wet/dry cycles, no hysteresis was observed, and there was no dependence on chamber type.

Conclusion:

These results indicate that humidity has no significant effect on these particular types of ionization chambers, consistent with recommendations in current megavoltage dosimetry protocols.

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