Radiation detection is a complex process that requires the use of specialized instruments. The most common type of radiation detector is a Geiger-Mueller (GM) tube, also known as a Geiger counter. Other methods and equipment used to detect radiation include film badges, gas ionization devices, radon detectors, personal radiation detectors, fog chambers, and scintillation counters. Scintillation detectors are an alternative to Geiger Mueller detectors and are especially useful for detecting small amounts of hidden or shielded radiation.
Many scintillation detectors have the ability to identify the radioactive isotope as well. These detectors can be used as stand-alone instruments for safety monitoring events or can be combined with a Geiger Muller detector to provide personal dose detection and monitoring capability at extremely high dose rates. The second major type of detector used in radiation detection instruments is the topographic meter. This portable device 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.
Photographic film plates can also be used to detect radiation as ionizing particles interact with the film to change the optical density of the film. In laboratory environments, radiation can be detected by other means in addition to ionization of gases. 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. Finally, a teletector is a particular meter specifically designed to detect gamma and x-ray radiation.
These indicate high levels of radiation for some time, while other detectors indicate levels of radiation at that point.