A Treacle Tin Radiation Detector

Posted on Feb 5, 2014

The OpenRelief project is building open, modular information solutions for disaster relief , and as part of which they`re developing a range of network-enabled sensors. I offered to help out by prototyping a radiation detector, opting to use an ionisation chamber in favour of a Geiger-Muller tube and constructing this from an old treacle tin. In

A Treacle Tin Radiation Detector
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this post I describe the basic principles of operation, before going on to cover early experiences and next steps. The Geiger counter has become synonymous with radiation detection but there are many ways to achieve this other than using a Geiger-Muller (GM) tube. The ionisation chamber works on similar principles to the GM tube, but is an incredibly simple design that can be constructed from an old tin can and which does not require the use of high voltages and an inert gas and halogen fill. You don`t get something for nothing and there are trade-offs, but we`ll come to those later. The inspiration for building an ionisation chamber-based detector came last year around the time of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As fears rose that insufficient information was available to track the spread of leaked radioactive materials, hackers around the world worked on designs for DIY Geiger counters, and those based in Japan made use of the Cosm (formerly Pachube) web service to publish real-time data online. As one might expect there was a run on GM tubes and supplies of those at the cheaper end of the market dried up. Which led me to thinking: why not use an ionisation chamber instead This is essentially little more than an air filled vessel which is open at one end, and with two electrodes across which the flow of current is measured. As radiation such as alpha or beta particles or gamma rays enters the chamber it strips...

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