In situ radioactivity measurements in a deep ocean environment are essential for marine environmental pollution monitoring and seabed geological exploration. In the past, the most widely used gamma spectrometers were based on towed instrumentation, which could only be operated underwater at a depth of less than 1500 m. In this study, a compact gamma spectrometer with small-size, light weight, and low power consumption was designed for working in a marine in situ environment. This spectrometer, with two essential parts: detector and electronics, was designed to work on different underwater platforms in the real-time control mode or autonomous operation mode. Multiple small volume avalanche photodiodes were coupled with NaI(Tl), which can significantly reduce the spectrometer volume compared with the option of the photomultiplier tube. Integrated readout electronics were employed to digitize all detector signals for miniaturization and low power consumption. The field programmable gate array (FPGA) was used to obtain the energy spectrum in real-time and an online multi-channel summation with temperature calibration algorithm was employed to improve detection efficiency. Relevant tests were also conducted in the laboratory to evaluate critical techniques and system performance. Results show that the energy resolution (full width at half maximum over the peak position) was ∼7.5% at 662 keV, verifying the online multi-channel summation with temperature calibration based on the FPGA. Moreover, the compact prototype spectrometer worked well in the power-on hydraulic test.

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