Human senses cannot detect nuclear radiation, so we need equipment to do this.
Photographic film goes darker when it absorbs radiation, just like it does when it absorbs visible light. The more radiation the film absorbs, the darker it is when it is developed.
People who work with radiation wear film badges, which are checked regularly to monitor the levels of radiation absorbed. The diagram shows the inside of a typical radiation badge when it is closed and opened.
There is a light-proof packet of photographic film inside the badge. The more radiation this absorbs, the darker it becomes when it is developed.
To get an accurate measure of the dose received, the badge contains different materials that the radiation must penetrate to reach the film. These may include aluminium, copper, lead-tin alloy and plastic. There is also an open area at the centre of the badge.
Geiger-Muller tube (GM tube)
The ionising effect of radiation is used in the Geiger-Muller (GM) tube as a means of detecting radioactivity.
The tube is a hollow cylinder filled with a gas at low pressure. The tube has a thin window made of mica at one end.
There is a central electrode inside the GM tube. A voltage supply is connected across the casing of the tube and the central electrode as shown in the diagram.
Each time the tube absorbs nuclear radiation, it transmits an electrical pulse to a counting machine. This makes a clicking sound or displays the count rate on a meter.
What happens is that when the radiation enters the tube
it ionises the gas. These ions are attracted to the electrodes, producing
a current in the tube for a short time, which in turn results in a voltage
pulse. Each voltage pulse corresponds to one ionising radiation entering
the GM tube. The voltage pulse is amplified and counted using electronic
circuitry. The higher the count rate, the more radiation the GM tube is
People who may be exposed to radiation regularly (OCR only)
The table shows some typical doses.
[ This page has been adapted from www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science