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You cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch radiation. You can only detect radiation with special equipment.
Detecting Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR)
Since non-ionizing radiation is simply low-energy waves of the electromagnetic spectrum (radio waves or microwaves), detection is hard. But, if you can listen to your radio, watch TV, talk on your mobile phone, use WiFi and/or Bluetooth technologies, you are definitely being exposed to NIR. To measure the quantity of low-energy waves, you will need an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter.
Another, perhaps simpler, way to determine the wavelength of NIR is by judging the length of the antenna transmitting it. As a general rule, the shorter the antenna, the more energized the waves. To pick up radio waves, an antenna must be the length of the longest wavelength. You can compare the antenna length to an electromagnetic spectrum chart to find the energy intensity.
Detecting Ionizing Radiation
Ionizing radiation can be measured very precisely and one of the basic measuring instruments is the Geiger-Müller counter. This instrument counts the number of radioactive particles entering a sensitive detection chamber and translates that signal into a needle movement on an analog dial or a value displayed on a screen.
The Geiger counter emits a click for every particle, so with only background radiation, the instrument clicks every few seconds. In a high radiation environment, it clicks rapidly in proportion to the radiation level. The user gets a visible as well as audible measurement of radioactivity.
Some people receive exposure to radiation as part of their employment (radiologists and nuclear plant workers). Worker radiation exposures are carefully monitored to ensure that everyone’s exposures are kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). Individual film badges and personal dosimeters are useful for this purpose. In the film badges the amount of film darkening is a measure of the radiation received, so by analyzing the film, radiation exposure records for each individual worker can be kept. Personal dosimeters allow the workers to view their own radiation dose instantly by looking at a small scale magnified by the instrument.
Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information of the American Nuclear Society
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