What is a Radiation Detector?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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Also known as particle detectors, radiation detectors are devices that are designed to identify the presence of some type of radiation within a given area. Along with locating pockets of radiation, most radiation detector devices of this type also measure the amount of radiation within the immediate area. This can help minimize the chances for excess exposure and possible long-term health consequences for people living and working with the location where the radiation is detected.

There are many different types of radiation detectors in common use today. The Geiger counter is one example. This device is often used to track and locate objects that are charged with high energy particles. Counters like these can be used in exploration efforts, as well as by amateur enthusiasts who enjoy looking for old coins and other artifacts.

Another example of the radiation detector is the survey meter. More sophisticated than some of the other types of detectors, this type of equipment can identify the presence of radiation, but also track and document the movement of the radioactive particles. The ability to monitor such factors as momentum, changes in the rate of charge, and the spin of the particles can be essential when conducting research into possible uses for the area under consideration.


Many facilities today make use of larger models of the radiation detector to ensure that radiation levels within the operation remain under acceptable levels. Research facilities as well as manufacturing plants that work with radioactive materials make use of the detectors to immediately know if levels begin to creep upward. When levels begin to reach unsafe levels, personnel can be evacuated from the area in an orderly fashion, preventing any injuries due to excessive exposure.

Even when radiation protection such as protective clothing is used, an active radiation detector is likely to be in operation at all times. Along with protecting individuals from harm due to radiation exposure, the devices can also help avoid explosions and other issues that could endanger the entire operation when radiation levels rise. In many cases, early detection by an efficient radiation detector enables technicians and repair crews to contain the increase, make any repairs needed, and monitor the level of radiation as it drops back to an acceptable level.

While simple detectors like a home Geiger counter are somewhat inexpensive, commercial models are normally large and very expensive. Like most equipment, there is a need to perform regular maintenance on an industrial radiation detector if the device is to provide accurate reading. When maintained properly, a radiation detector of this type can easily last for many years before there is a need to replace the unit.


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