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After a peak area has been measured it is important to establish its statistical significance, taking into account the uncertainties of the background as well as those associated with the peak.

The two main limits discussed are:

  • Critical limit - this is a decision level to determine if the net count is significant.
  • Detection limit - the minimum number of counts that we can be confident of detecting.

If the expected count is above the critical limit but below the detection limit then we might detect the activity.

If the count is above the detection limit then it is very probable that the activity would be detected.

Another limit to be investigated is the minimum detectable activity.

Definition of critical limit, LC and detection limit, LD.
(The vertical axis represents the frequency of observing a particular count)


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1999, 2000 The University of Liverpool, Department of Physics

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