Geiger counters are used to detect beta radiation and gamma radiation. The sensor is a Geiger-Müller tube, an inert gas-filled tube (usually helium, neon or argon with halogens added) that briefly conducts electricity when a particle or photon of radiation makes the gas conductive. The tube amplifies this conduction by a cascade effect and outputs a current pulse, which is then often displayed by a needle or lamp and/or audible clicks. Modern instruments can report radioactivity over several orders of magnitude. Some Geiger counters can be used to detect gamma radiation, though sensitivity can be lower for high energy gamma radiation than with certain other types of detector, because the density of the gas in the device is usually low, allowing most high energy gamma photons to pass through undetected (lower energy photons are easier to detect, and are better absorbed by the detector. Examples of this are the X-ray Pancake Geiger Tube).

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