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How Is Radioactivity Measured?

measuring radioactivity

The Measurement of Radioactivity

If you’re thinking about checking the levels of radioactivity in your home or another setting with a radioactivity measurement device, you’re probably curious about how the measurement of radioactivity works. Or at the very least, you need to understand it to a certain extent so you can measure radioactivity levels on your own. So how is radioactivity measured?

Radioactive Measurement

There are different units of measurement for radioactivity depending on what is being measured. In addition, the term used varies depending on whether conventional units are being used – the curie, the rad and the rem – or you’re relying on the system internationale (SI) units – the becquerel, the sievert and the gray. In the United States, regulatory agencies follow federal law and use conventional units, while most of the world relies on the SI system.

What is the difference between these units of measurement? The curie or the becquerel are used as units of measurement when you’re looking at how much radiation a material is giving off. The rad or the gray are used to measure radiation a person takes in, and the rem or the sievert are used to understand how much risk people have by being around a source of radiation. Additional measurements include counts per minute and counts per second, which are useful for measuring alpha and beta particles.

Unlike other atoms, radioactive atoms transform into different kinds of atoms, so they are considered unstable. Despite the radioactive atom turning into a stable atom, the process of change is referred to as decay. This decay process of the radioactive atom lets off ionizing radiation. You can then measure this radiation that’s given off from radioactive materials.

What Do You Measure Radioactivity With?

You have the ability of measuring radioactivity yourself if you get the right tool. You can use a radiation Geiger counter or a similar radioactivity measurement device to measure the radiation levels in your own home and other environments where you spend time.

The Geiger Mueller detector has gas within its tube that is ionized by radiation when it’s present. The meter can detect different kinds of radiation, including beta, X-rays, alpha and gamma radiation. A Geiger counter can help you figure out the radiation in your environment, and then there are also EMF meters that tell you how much electromagnetic radiation from technology you’re exposed to and devices that test the radiation levels in your food. The measurement types, such as counts per minute and sieverts, can vary depending on the specific device you are using.

Overall, it’s easy to measure radioactivity from your own home when you have a measuring device. You’ll quickly get the hang of the particular meter you choice and how it measures and reports radioactivity. 


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