Space-based gamma-ray detectors for high-energy astronomy face strict constraints of mass, volume, and power, and must endure harsh operating environments. Scintillator materials have a long history of successful operation under these conditions, and new materials offer greatly improved performance in terms of efficiency, time response, and energy resolution. The use of scintillators in space remains constrained, however, by the mass, volume, and fragility of the associated light readout device, typically a vacuum photomultiplier tube (PMT). Recently developed silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) offer gains and efficiencies similar to those of PMTs, but with greatly reduced mass and volume, high ruggedness, and no high-voltage requirements. We have therefore been investigating the use of SiPM readouts for scintillator gamma-ray detectors, with an emphasis on their suitability for space- and balloonbased instruments for high-energy astronomy. We present our most recent results, including spectroscopy measurements for lanthanum bromide scintillators with SiPM readouts, and pulse-shape discrimination using organic scintillators with SiPM readouts. We also describe potential applications of SiPM readouts to specific highenergy astronomy instrument concepts.

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SPIE Proceedings



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Conference Proceeding