There are several methods and equipment used to detect radiation. These are film badges, gas ionization devices, Geiger-Muller counters, radon detectors, personal radiation detectors, fog chambers, and scintillation counters. Radiation detection is achieved through the use of a variety of instruments. The most common type of radiation detector is a Geiger-Mueller (GM) tube, also called a Geiger counter.
Many people, thinking about radiation detection, tend to group them all under the term “Geiger counters”, a misconception heartily encouraged by popular TV shows and movies. While one of the most common types of radiation detectors is called a “Geiger Mueller (G-M)” tube, the general phrase “Geiger counter” is not always the most appropriate. It applies to a very specific type of detector and, in general, to a specific application of that detector. Radiation detection devices are typically classified by the type of detector element employed or by the application involved.
People will refer to the instruments as an ion chamber, a probing meter, a contamination meter, or a Frisker probe. Popular culture has so profoundly subverted the proper use of “Geiger Counter” that the use of the phrase generally does not provide enough information about the device in question. When talking about radiation detection instruments, there are three types of detectors that are most often used, depending on the specific needs of the device. As the name implies, the topographic meter is a portable radiation detector, which typically measures the amount of radiation present and provides this information on a numerical display in units of counts per minute, counts per second, or microroentgen (µR) or microrem (µrem) per hour.
The second major type of detectors used in radiation detection instruments are scintillation detectors. Since the early days of radiation testing conducted by Roentgen and Becquerel, scientists have been looking for ways to measure and observe the radiation emitted by the materials they worked with. An RIID is a radiation detector with the ability to analyze the energy spectrum of radiation, in order to identify the specific radioactive material (radionuclide) that emits the radiation. A particular meter, known as a teletector, is specifically designed to detect gamma and x-ray radiation.