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MAE 311

Geiger Counter



By:
Randy Smith
Thaddeus Black
Cody Cooper
Patrick Phillips










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Contents

Project Analysis Report ......................................................................................................................... 1
R-1 Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 2
R-2 Division of Labor ......................................................................................................................... 2
R-2-1 Integration............................................................................................................................ 2
R-2-2 Production Assembly ........................................................................................................... 2
R-2-3 Calibration ............................................................................................................................ 2
R-2-4 Final Documentation ........................................................................................................... 2
R-3 Divergence from the Project Proposal....................................................................................... 2
R-4 The Build ...................................................................................................................................... 3
R-4-1 Material Acquisition............................................................................................................. 3
R-4-2 Cost Reduction ..................................................................................................................... 3
R-4-3 Hardware Bench Test Assembly.......................................................................................... 4
R-4-4 Software Integration ............................................................................................................ 4
R-4-5 Production Assembly ........................................................................................................... 6
R-4-6 Testing .................................................................................................................................. 8
R-4-7 Calibration ............................................................................................................................ 9
R-4-8 Project Documentation ..................................................................................................... 10
R-5 Appendix A: Geiger Counter Firmware .................................................................................... 11
R-6 Appendix B: Mechanical Drawings (dimensions in mm) ......................................................... 13
R-7 Appendix C: NIST Calibration Certificate .................................................................................. 16
Lab Manual .......................................................................................................................................... 17
M-1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 18
M-2 Materials .................................................................................................................................. 18
M-3 Background .............................................................................................................................. 18
M-3-1 Ionizing Radiation ............................................................................................................. 18
M-3-2 Ionizing Radiation types ................................................................................................... 19
M-3-3 Half-Life ............................................................................................................................. 20
M-3-4 Decay Rate / Activity ........................................................................................................ 20
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M-3-5 Cesium 137 ....................................................................................................................... 20
M-3-6 Radiation Measurements ................................................................................................. 21
M-3-7 Calibration ......................................................................................................................... 23
M-3-8 Safety ................................................................................................................................ 24
M-4 Procedure ................................................................................................................................. 25
M-5 Calculations .............................................................................................................................. 26
Lab Report ........................................................................................................................................... 27
L-1 Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... 28
L-2 Background ................................................................................................................................ 29
L-3 Procedure .................................................................................................................................. 33
L-4 Data, Analysis, and Results ....................................................................................................... 33
Propagated Uncertainty .............................................................................................................. 37
L-5 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 38
References ........................................................................................................................................... 39


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Project Analysis Report






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R-1 Introduction
The requirements put forth for this project were to create an instrument based on the Arduino
UNO platform to make some measurement and log the data. In addition to making the
measurement, a calibration routine should be employed. To address these requirements, a
Geiger counter was built using an Arduino Compatible Geiger shield. A GPS logging shield was
also sourced and provides logging capabilities. The GPS shield also provides position data that
can be used for future implementation.
R-2 Division of Labor
The project was broken down into four main phases: integration, production assembly,
calibration, and final documentation.
R-2-1 Integration
Randy Smith was responsible for integration. Integration included sourcing the components
necessary for bench testing, assembling the device for bench testing, and programming the
device, and producing the project analysis report.
R-2-2 Production Assembly
Thaddeus Black was responsible for the production assembly. His responsibilities included,
taking measurements of the device, developing mechanical drawings for the device, designing
and developing mechanical drawings for the device enclosure, and finally, assembling the
device for production.
R-2-3 Calibration
Cody Cooper was responsible for device calibration. His responsibilities included relating
theoretical values to experimental values, developing a calibration procedure, error analysis,
and producing the lab report.
R-2-4 Final Documentation
Patrick Phillips was responsible for final documentation. His responsibilities included developing
the lab manual, assembling the reports into a singular consistent format, editing, and ensuring
the final document is print ready.
R-3 Divergence from the Project Proposal
To meet hard times outlined in the project proposal, some adjustments to the division of labor
had to be made. In particular, integration responsibilities and production assembly
responsibilities were planned to be shared. This turned out to be too difficult to coordinate
logistically. Adjustments made were, Patrick Phillips was removed from integration
responsibilities and instead picked up the bulk of the final documentation responsibilities. Cody
Cooper was removed from production assembly and instead picked up the calibration
responsibilities. Thaddeus Black was removed from calibration responsibilities and picked up
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the full responsibilities for production assembly. Testing was performed by all members of the
group. All the hard times provided in the project proposal were met.
R-4 The Build
From the outset several compromises were made to facilitate project completion within the
time constraints. Initially the Geiger counter board was going to be built from scratch. The
components for building the board from scratch were specified. This approach was discarded
after the realization that the time required to source the components, obtain PCB
manufacturing assets, and assemble the board, would be prohibitive.
R-4-1 Material Acquisition
The Arduino UNO starter kit and Ultimate GPS logger
shield were sourced from adafruit.com. The Geiger
shield with included LN712 Geiger-Muller tube were
sourced from Sparkfun.com. A NIST calibrated test
source of cesium137 with an activity of 1.01 uCi was
acquired from UnitedNuclear.com. The microSD card
used for logging was purchased at Walmart. Lastly,
the device enclosure and mounting hard ware was
purchased at Radioshack. Table 1, provides the total
project budget.


R-4-2 Cost Reduction
There are several ways the costs of this project can be significantly reduced. If the board is
assembled from scratch, the component costs at the time of this build, minus the Geiger-Muller
tube, is $20. Several Geiger-Muller tubes were examined and eventually the LN712 was decided
on. The LN712 is rather pricey but can detect alpha particles. There are several Russian made
Geiger-Muller tubes that can be substituted in this build that only detect Gamma and Beta
emissions. These tubes are much more affordable and run around $30-$40 at the time of this
build. The GPS logging shield can be replaced by just a logging board to further reduce costs if
positional data is not desired. The positional data was included in this project to perform
radiological topography in the future. If a NIST calibrated radiological source is not required, a
1uCi test source can be acquired for $80 at the time of this build. Lastly, if a starter kit is not
required, an Arduino UNO can be purchased for $30. With all of these reduction measures in
place, the total project cost would be around $200.
Geiger Counter Budget Report
Arduino UNO Starter Kit $65.00
Geiger Shield w/ ND712 $150.00
Ulitimate GPS logger Shield $60.00
Enclosure and Hardware $20.00
MicroSD Card $20.00
NIST calibrated Cs137 $209.00
Documentation Binding est. $40.00

Total Project Costs $564.00

Table 1: Geiger Budget
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R-4-3 Hardware Bench Test Assembly
The assembly for bench testing / integration is
straight forward. Male headers were soldered to the
GPS logging board which was subsequently attached
to the Arduino UNO. Three stripped wires were
soldered to the provided drilled holes on the Geiger
shield for supply voltage, ground, and output
respectfully. After soldering the wires, heat shrink
tubing was placed over the wires and shrunk into
place. The wires were cut to length, stripped, and
soldered to digital I/O pin two, ground, and the 5
volt supply. Figure 1 shows the Geiger counter
assembled for software integration / testing.



Figure 1: Testing Assembly
R-4-4 Software Integration
By far the most difficult aspect of this project, aside from documentation, was building the
device firmware from scratch. No outside support files or code were used for this device except
for support files needed for SD logging (SPI.h and SD.h). These source files were acquired from
the adafruit website. The code in its entirety is included in Appendix A.
During the design of the firmware, a test was conducted to attempt to quantify the benefits of
polling the sensor in software versus implementing a hardware interrupt. With software polling,
using a simple modified debounce sketch, the sensor was recorded as high for 130ms. In
comparison, using a hardware interrupt
showed the sensor would transition in
only 13us. The lower time, is far better,
as additional readings are limited by the
amount of time it takes for transition.
Based on this testing, a hardware
interrupt was used to poll sensor
transition.
The highlighted code in Listing 1 is the
code used to setup a hardware interrupt.
radIn, corresponds to the Arduino
input pin 2, which was defined in the preprocessor portion of the code. count, is the name of
the function that is responsible for handling the interrupt. Lastly, FALLING, dictates to the
hardware that an event should be triggered on the falling edge of sensor transition. The
function count is provided in Listing 2. It is a very simple function by design. Hardware
interrupts, interrupt all other functions including millis(), which is the primary way time is
tracked in this program for averaging. This function executes in a single microsecond and as
Listing 1: Interrupt Setup
Listing 2: Interrupt Function
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such does not introduce significant error to the averaging or time keeping methods employed
in the program, even under heavy sensor loading.
In the calibration portions of the code, an
effort was made to mitigate truncation
error while also avoiding floating point
arithmetic due to hardware constraints.
Listing 3 displays the calibration
constants defined in the preprocessor
section of the code and their
subsequent scaling. Since the
calibration constants are rounded to the
hundredths place, by multiplying the
constants by 100 they can be treated as
integers. This is all handled by the
preprocessor for efficiency purposes.
Listing 4 displays the actual calibration
function. The additional term of 100 in
the denominator returns the calculated
value back to its appropriate magnitude
after the calculation. This work around for floating point arithmetic has been employed by
software engineers since the invention of the computer.
The main issue with developing this code, was determining the most efficient and accurate way
to extrapolate counts per minute. An averaging method was tested and eventually employed.
With averaging, there are several issues that need to be addressed. If the average is a running
average, meaning it is never reset, initial instability is present. This will then eventually
converge at the one minute mark to the proper counts per minute, but then will continue to
diverge for remainder of the running time. Long running averages are slow to respond to
transients but show the best stability. Averages that are often reset show good response, but
they are very instable. A compromise was struck between these two behaviors by employing
four averages that reset after a minute individually but are 15 seconds out of phase. This
ensures that the average converges to a correct solution every 15 seconds, while providing a
good response to transients, and maintaining suitable stability. The functions that control the
out of phase averages are provided in Listing 5.
Listing 3: Calibration Constant Scaling
Listing 4: Calibration Function
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Listing 5: Out of Phase AVG functions

R-4-5 Production Assembly
When producing the final assembly for the
project, the first priority was to find an enclosure
that would house the different pieces of the
device. A manufactured plastic project
enclosure was chosen because it matched the
needed dimensions for the device. The box was
150x100x50 mm with embossed screw holes for
the lid.
The first challenge that occurred with the
assembly was determining how the device was
to be mounted into the box. The most common
approach would be to directly screw the device
into the box. This method could have been done, but it would have lowered the appeal of the
box by having screws protruding out of the top and bottom.
Figure 2: Production Assembly
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The alternate way of mounting the device into the box was to
place a platform into the box and mount the device to that
platform. This was the method that was chosen because it
overall made the finished product much more aesthetically
appealing. The platform that was used was a basic wood
block that was shaped from craft wood that can be purchased
from any local hobby store. The basic outline of the Arduino
and the Geiger boards were traced onto the wood boards and
then the rough shape was cut out using a jigsaw. The sharp
edges of the outlined shapes were removed using a table top
belt sander.
The same challenge of attaching the boards to the box appeared when considering how to
attach the platforms to the box. The method chosen was to use industrial strength adhesive
that creates a strong bond between two pieces. This again contributed to the overall appeal of
the final product. Before the adhesive was applied, the two surfaces of the platform and box
were sanded using a block sander to create a rough surface. These abrasive surfaces allow the
bond of the adhesive to become even stronger. This concept is the same as sanding a product
before painting it. The adhesive was then applied to both surfaces and the two were brought
together and allowed to sit for 24 hours with a heavy object sitting on top of the platform.
The next step in the production assembly was to drill the hole that allowed the Geiger tube to
be exposed from inside the box. The diameter of the tube was measured in order to get a
correct diameter drill bit. The tube diameter measured at 15 mm which lead to a 3/4 inch drill
bit to be chosen. 3/4 of an inch correlates to 19 mm. The diameter of the hole was chosen to be
bigger than the tube to allow tolerance for any complications in the precision of the mounting
of the Geiger board. When drilling the hole into the box, slow gradual pressure was applied so
that the thin walls of the box would not shatter due to the high brittleness of the hard plastic
that was used in the production of the box. Another hole of the same diameter was drilled into
the top of the box in order to allow the USB cable to be connected to the Arduino.
Once the adhesive had dried, pilot holes were drilled into the platforms that matched the
mounting holes on the two boards. Pilot holes are drilled prior to the insertion of screws so that
the wood will not split when turning the screw into the grain of the wood. The boards were
then mounted onto the platforms with 3 mm diameter brass screws. The Arduino board was
mounted onto the lid of the box and the Geiger board was mounted to the base of the inside of
the box so that the minimum space of the box could be utilized efficiently. This completed the
final assembly for the project.
Another challenge that occurred was when the mounted lid was first placed on top of the box.
It was noticed that the top of the Arduino board was interfering with the top of the Geiger
tube. This problem was solved by carefully removing the Arduino mount from the center of the
Figure 3: 3d Production Assembly
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lid and moving it to the far side of the lid away from the Geiger tube. This allowed the Arduino
board to fit between the wall of the box and the Geiger tube.
Without including the 24 hours that were used for the adhesive to set, the entire process of the
assembly from beginning to end took around three hours to complete. The assembly was
designed to not be overcomplicated so that it could be set up and broken down with minimum
effort. The final assembly only involves plugging the Arduino into the computer via the USB and
closing the lid of the box. This ease of use allows time savings and faster setup for obtaining
useful data.

R-4-6 Testing
The testing phase was carried out concurrently with the software integration and calibration
phases of the build. During integration, a measurement of the time LN712 sensor was high (to
determine sensor bandwidth) was taken. It was performed in software using both a
conventional digital input trigger and a hardware interrupt. With regular input polling, the
sensor was read high for an average of 130ms per count event. Under hardware interrupt
polling, that time was reduced to 13us.
The current draw of the device was measured by placing an ammeter in series with a 9v battery
supplying the device. The draw unloaded was 95mA with a maximum current draw of 115mA
observed with the radiation source 1cm from the sensor and logging enabled. Maximum
runtime on a single standard 9v battery was calculated and determined to be less than three
hours.
Radioactive emission is a probabilistic event. As such, error is somewhat meaningless. Instead,
counter efficiency is a better metric of device performance. The mean efficiency of the counter
was calculated during the calibration phase. The counter has a mean efficiency of 27% for
counts per minute up to approximately 30,000 (2cm from 1.01uCi Cs137). From this point on,
the efficiency of the device rapidly deteriorates (exponentially). An efficiency of 15% was
recorded for count rates around 100,000CPM (1cm from 1.01uCi Cs137). The inefficiencies can
be readily explained. Gamma is very weakly interacting and comprises 85% of the emission
from the Cs137. Many of the gamma particles are passing through the sensor without triggering
a count. For the divergence of efficiency at count rates above 30,000CPM, the sensor is
approaching saturation. Each count event causes the sensor to go high for a finite amount of
time. While the sensor is high, no other counts can be received. Above 30,000, the sensor is
high most of the time and dropping more and more counts.
The timers, counts, and averages roll over after approximately 54 days. No programmatic effort
was made to mitigate or catch roll over events. A conservative maximum continuous operation
time is thus set at 50 days.
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The concept of the out of phase averages is a compromise between data stability and response.
Under transient conditions, the sensor will begin to converge immediately to the new count
rate. However, small inconsistencies / instabilities will be observed at 15 second intervals as the
averages cycle. Achieving fully stable, accurate, and steady state operation at a new activity
level takes a full minute.
Testing revealed an issue with logging. Initially the device would output and log whenever it
received a count. This slowed down the overall main loop execution and lead to corrupted data
or incomplete data being logged under moderate to heavy sensor loading. To correct this issue,
the code was modified to write out in two second intervals.
R-4-7 Calibration
Calibrating the device begins with plugging in
the topographical Geiger counter into the
computer. Once plugged in, the file
GeigerFinal.ino is downloaded to the
computer and uploaded to the Arduino. Next,
the serial monitor is opened to ensure that the
Geiger counter is reading values. Now, the
sample of Cesium 137 is set into the provided
stand and placed 1 cm from the Geiger tube.
Then, the Arduino sketch is allowed to run for
1 minute before values are actually taken.
Once the minute has passed, the Geiger
counter is ready to begin taking values, so the
serial monitor is closed and Excel is opened. Now that the device is ready to take readings, the
first measurements are taken with the source 1 cm away from the Geiger tube. With the serial
monitor open, the device is given 3 minutes to take measurements. After 3 minutes, the values
seen in the serial monitor are copied and pasted into Excel. Then, the serial monitor is closed,
and the radiation sample is moved back to 2 centimeters and measurements are taken again
for 3 minutes. This process is repeated in one centimeter increments until the source is 13
centimeters from the Geiger tube.
The main challenges with this arose when attempting to relate counts per minute to Becquerel.
This issue was resolved when it was realized that the Geiger counter receives a count for every
disintegration that occurs that is incident upon the window with some loss which is a factor of
efficiency. However, it was required that the Geiger counter display Becquerel. To do this, a
correction for efficiency had to be factored in. This was done by considering the counts per
minute as the independent variable and making the dependent variable the unit that was
needed (disintegrations per minute). This was helpful because there is a linear relationship
between counts per minute and disintegrations per minute. Once plotted, linear regression
Figure 4: Calibration Setup
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could be used to find the linear fit. This linear fit produces two constants, A and B, for the
equation of a line, = +. A is equal to the slope of the line, and B is equal to the
intercept. The counts per minute the Geiger tube senses is plugged in as x, and the result is
the theoretical disintegrations per minute. This value is then divided by 60 to achieve
disintegrations per second or Becquerel.
R-4-8 Project Documentation
Over the course of a week, the 27 images collected and the 13 data sets collected were
compiled into a lab report. From the results of the experiment, a lab manual could be formed
and used to derive further works. The main challenges presented during the compilation of this
document was research, formatting, and editing.


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R-5 Appendix A: Geiger Counter Firmware
//headers needed for SD logging
#include <SPI.h>
#include <SD.h>

//define our constants

//Calculated calibration constants
#define Acal 3.45 //our calibration constant A (Slope) (Ax+B)
#define Bcal 33.89 //our calibration constant B (Y intercept)(Ax+B)

//just some constants
#define adjAcal Acal*100 //convert floats to ints
#define adjBcal Bcal*100 //convert floats to ints
#define second 1000 //1000 ms in a second
#define minute 60000 //60000 ms in a minute

//hardware constants
#define disprate 2 //time in seconds (interval) to output data
#define baud 9600 //baud rate for serial comm
#define chipSelect 10 //required for SD logging
#define radIn 0 //interrupt 0 corresponds to D2

//variable declaration
int logging = 1; //we are logging if an sd card is present
unsigned long saveTime = millis(); //millis rolls over after 46 days
unsigned long indexTime = millis(); //resets every 15 seconds
unsigned long countTime = millis(); //to hold the time we get a count
unsigned long prevCount = 0; //count for comparison to nowCount
unsigned int avgIndex = 0; //to keep track of what average we are using
unsigned int elapsedMinutes = 0; //keep track of elapsed minutes of runtime
unsigned long lastMinCount = 0; //counts for the last minute
unsigned long actualCPM = 0; //actual counts per minute not actually using this
volatile unsigned long nowCount = 0; //volatile so our interrupt can access it (our counts from interrupt)
unsigned long timeArray[] = { 0, 0, 0, 0 }; //an array to hold our time for averages
unsigned long countArray[] = { 0, 0, 0, 0 }; //an array to hold our counts for averages
unsigned long curAvg = 0; //current avg CPM
unsigned long curAct = 0; //current calculated activity (Bq)
unsigned long dispTime = millis(); //the time to display

File logfile; //logfile is our file pointer
String dataString = ""; //string to hold our data

void setup()
{
Serial.begin(baud);
Serial.println("Serial communications established\nInitializing I/O...");
attachInterrupt(radIn, count, FALLING); //we'll grab count on the falling edge.
pinMode(chipSelect, OUTPUT); //SoftSerial out port ten
if (!SD.begin(chipSelect)) { //Check to see that the sd card is present and functioning
Serial.println("Card init. failed!"); //Serial out an error if above not true
logging = 0; //card failed turn off logging
}

char filename[15]; //An Array to hold logging file name
strcpy(filename, "DATLOG00.TXT"); //Write the base filename to the array
for (uint8_t i = 0; i < 100; i++) { //index till we find a new filename (no appending no overwriting!)
filename[6] = '0' + i / 10; //even 10's
filename[7] = '0' + i % 10; //remainders
if (!SD.exists(filename)) { //break out of loop if we have a new filename.
break;
}
}

logfile = SD.open(filename, FILE_WRITE); //set file pointer to our filename and open the file
if (!logfile) { //if for some reason we can't create the file send error
Serial.print("Couldnt create ");
Serial.println(filename);
logging = 0; //Couldn't create file turn off logging
}
//just some friendly messages
Serial.println("I/O initialized");
if (logging)
{
Serial.print("Writing to ");
Serial.println(filename);
}
Serial.println("Initialization complete Geiger counter is now operational\n\n\n");
//if just reading from serial printout all the things
if (!logging)
{
Serial.println("Counts\tTime (s)\tAvidx\tAvg\tMin\tCPM\tActivity (Bq)");
}
//we are logging lets keep things clean
else {
dataString = "Counts\tTime (s)\tCPM\tActivity (Bq)\n"; //construct datastring to write to file to denote columns
Serial.println(dataString); //send data string to serial
logfile.println(dataString); //pipe data to soft serial
logfile.flush(); //write data to card

}

}

void loop()
{
if (nowCount != prevCount) //if the count has changed (good if we break from doThings)
{
prevCount = nowCount; //the count has changed

}
if ((millis() - dispTime) >= disprate * second) //do this every disprate seconds. data refresh rate
{
curAvg = getAvg(avgIndex); //get the average cpm
curAct = cnt2bq(curAvg); //get the calculated activity

dispTime = millis(); //write out the time since start
if (logging)
{
doLog(); //call our logging routine
}
else {
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doDisplay(); //call our messy serial routine
}
}
if ((millis() - indexTime) >= 15 * second) //15 seconds has elapsed
{
indexTime = millis(); //reset 15 second
avgIndex = rotateAverage(avgIndex); //index the average tracker
}
if ((millis() - saveTime) >= minute) //1 minute has elapsed
{
actualCPM = prevCount - lastMinCount; //the actual cpm for this minute
lastMinCount = prevCount; //reset last minute count
saveTime = millis(); //reset saved time
++elapsedMinutes; //index elapsed minutes
}
}
//interrupt handling routine
void count() //interrupt handler INDEXES THE COUNT (keeping this short so we don't eat proc)
{
++nowCount; //index the count
countTime = millis(); //millis() stops on interrupt but it's ok our interrupt is really fast.
}

//routine to setup 15 second offset averages Gets called during first minute. takes the current indice as an argument
int initializeAverage(int x)
{
if (x < 3) //this should never be false
{
++x; //index the average arrays
timeArray[x] = millis(); //set time for our current avg
countArray[x] = prevCount; //set counts for our current avg
}
return x; //returns current array indice
}

//this runs after first minute. it hands off every 15 seconds to the next offest average
//(4 averages out of phase by 15 seconds). Insures convergence every 15 seconds to the solution.
//takes the current indice as an argument
int rotateAverage(int x)
{
if (elapsedMinutes) //don't run this unless we have gone at least a minute
{
timeArray[x] = millis(); //reset the time for this average
countArray[x] = prevCount; //reset the count for this average
if (x == 3)
{
return 0; //new indice is zero (we wrapped around)
}
return avgIndex + 1; //else index the average indice
}
else
{
return initializeAverage(avgIndex); //we haven't gone a minute continue initializing
}
}

//this routine gets the average counts per minute from the appropriate averaging indices. Takes the current indice as an argument
unsigned long getAvg(int x)
{
if (elapsedMinutes) //poll the array if we have gone at least a minute
{
return (prevCount - countArray[x]) * minute / (millis() - timeArray[x]); //get the average from the appropriate indice
}
else
{
return prevCount * minute / millis(); //if a minute hasn't elapsed no need to poll the arrays
}
}

//routine for converting counts to activity with our calibration constants takes avg cpm as an argument.
unsigned long cnt2bq(unsigned long x) //convert counts to activity in Bq with calibration const
{
//our calibration is based on disintegrations per minute (theoretical) v. counts per minute (experimental)
//A*x+B/60 ='s disintegrations per second.
//the factor of 100 in denominator is to avoid the use of floats (adjAcal and adjBcal are *'s 100)
return (x * adjAcal + adjBcal)/(60*100);
}

//routine for formatting and writing data to sd
void doLog()
{
dataString = ""; //clear the string
dataString += prevCount; //current count
dataString += "\t"; //tab
dataString += millis()/1000; //time in seconds
dataString += "\t"; //tab
dataString += curAvg; //the average cpm
dataString += "\t"; //tab
dataString += curAct; //the calculated activity
Serial.println(dataString); //send the data to serial
logfile.println(dataString); //send the data string to softserial for writing
logfile.flush(); //write the data (this is slow but safe)
}
//OutPut if not logging (debug)
void doDisplay()
{
Serial.print(prevCount);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(millis()/1000);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(avgIndex);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(curAvg);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(elapsedMinutes);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(actualCPM);
Serial.print("\t");
Serial.print(curAct);
Serial.println();
}
Listing 6: Geiger Counter Firmware
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R-6 Appendix B: Mechanical Drawings (dimensions in mm)

Figure 5: Geiger Shield Mechanical Drawing

Figure 6: GPS Logger Shield Connected to Arduino UNO
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Figure 7: Production Assembly

Figure 8: Device Enclosure
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Figure 9: Geiger Counter, GPS Logger, and Arduino UNO 3D

Figure 10: Production Assembly 3D
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R-7 Appendix C: NIST Calibration Certificate

Figure 11: Calibration Certificate
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Lab Manual








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M-1 Introduction
This lab is designed to introduce the fundamentals of
radiation and the measurement thereof with common
devices available on the open market. An example of this
can be seen in Figure 1. For this project, the user will gain
an understanding of the theory that governs radioactive
decay, the effects of radioactive decay, how radioactive
decay is measured, and how Geiger counters are
calibrated.

M-2 Materials
A Computer with Arduino Sketching Software and Microsoft Excel
A NIST calibrated radiation source, Cesium-137
A Topographical Geiger Counter
A SI ruler

M-3 Background
Radiation is actually everywhere. Our eyes interpret a narrow wavelength of emitted
electromagnetic radiation. This type of radiation is termed thermal radiation or non-ionizing
radiation, though the term non-ionizing is somewhat misleading considering Einsteins
photoelectric effect. Radiation in this general sense is just describing energy transfer that does
not require a medium. Radiation is the only mode of heat transfer in a vacuum. Objects in space
still get hot and cold and this is due to the absorption and emission of thermal radiation. When
people talk about radiation, they are typically referring to the type of radiation that is released
when an atom undergoes fission, fusion, or decays.

M-3-1 Ionizing Radiation
Radiation, for the purpose of this experiment, refers to the emissions of particles or
electromagnetic waves induced by the disintegration of unstable atoms trying to become more
stable called ionizing radiation. There are four major types of radiation: alpha decay, beta
decay, gamma decay, and neutron decay. Each type has a unique particle or wave associated
with it, and each type has its own unique way of spreading into the environment after the
unstable particle decays.

Figure 1: Geiger Counter
Geiger Counter

19


M-3-2 Ionizing Radiation types
Alpha decay, noted by the Greek symbol , is one of the most common decay types. Alpha
particles are typically emitted from heavier atoms such as Uranium or Plutonium. When a
particle undergoes alpha decay, it sheds a singular
2
isotope particle into the environment
causing the original atom to decay two steps lower on the periodic table. [1]

Beta decay is a little more complex than
alpha decay because instead of a sum total
loss of mass there is a possible gain or loss
of atomic number within the unstable atom.
In generic terms, beta decay refers to the
loss of an electron or positron within the
atom along with the emission of two
possible types of neutrinos described by the
two types of beta decay. There are two
forms of beta decay, noted by the Greek
symbol . There is beta plus,
+
, and beta
minus,
-
. During
+
decay, a positron and an
electron neutrino are emitted, as such the
unstable atom decays one step down on
the periodic chain. During
-
decay, the atom emits an electron and an antineutrino that
converts one of the neutrons within the unstable atom into a proton. [1]

Gamma decay, noted by the Greek symbol ,
happens alongside alpha and beta decay. When
an alpha or beta decay occurs, the particle that
remains after either decay stays in an excited
state and is termed meta-stable. When the
electron relaxes to the ground state,
electromagnetic radiation is released. The
wavelength of the resultant electromagnetic
radiation is dictated by the energy difference
from the excited to the ground state. With a large
energy difference, gamma rays are produced.
This is the same fundamental physical principle
that produces x-rays, visible light, and every
other wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. [1]
Figure 2: Beta Decay
Source: Google Images
Figure 3: Gamma Emission
Source: Google Images
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20

M-3-3 Half-Life
The term half-life is used to describe the longevity of a sample and infers a samples activity. A
sample of 12 atoms over a time equal to its half-life will have 6 of the atoms decay. Which 6
atoms decay is completely random. It was this probabilistic nature of radioactive decay that
first indicated that the physical laws governing subatomic particles are statistical. The equation
for determining the half-life of a given sample is given in Equation 1, where N is the half-life, N0
is the number of initial radioactive nuclei, t is time, and is the disintegration constant. Every
radionuclide has a distinct disintegration constant, the units for which are inverse seconds. [1]
[1] =
0

t


M-3-4 Decay Rate / Activity
A useful permutation of the half-life equation is the decay rate equation. By differentiating half-
life with respect to time, the rate of decay is ascertained. The total rate of decay, given by
Equation 2, is called the activity of a sample. R0 is the decay rate at time 0, and R is the rate at
any subsequent time. It should be noted that t time in this equation is the ratio of elapsed time
to the half-life time t. The SI units for radioactive decay is the Becquerel or Curie. A Becquerel
(Bq) equals one decay per second, and one Curie (Ci) equals 3.7 x 10
10
Bq. [1]

=
0


Let =

and
0
=
0


[2] =
0

t


M-3-5 Cesium 137
Cesium 137 is an unstable artificial radioisotope fission byproduct. The primary source for
Cs137 is nuclear fission reactors. Its nucleus is made up of 55 protons and 82 neutrons. Cesium
137 has a half-life of approximately 30.07 years, and two principle modes of decay which are
provided in Figure 4. The first mode of decay occurs rather infrequently (5.4% of the time) and
is characterized by direct decay via beta emission to barium in its ground state which is stable.
The second primary mode of decay occurs 94.6% of the time and is characterized by a beta
decay to a metastable excited state of barium with a half-life of 2.55 minutes. The metastable
barium then moves to its ground state by the emission of a gamma ray. The resulting total
proportionality of beta particles to gamma emission from cesium 137 is 14.9% beta to 85.1%
gamma respectfully. The energy of the electron released during beta decay is dependent with
Geiger Counter

21

respect to the incident angle it forms with the antineutrino during emission. The max energy,
listed in Figure 4, is the total energy of both the electron and antineutrino. [1]


Figure 4: Cesium 137 Decay Chain
Source: Google Images

M-3-6 Radiation Measurements
Radiation is detected with a device known as a Geiger counter. A Geiger counter measures any
significant amount of radiation and stores it as a count. It accumulates the counts and
averages them over time to give some average of counts per unit time. More specifically, a
Geiger counter is an integrated circuit, or IC, composed of two major components: the Geiger
tube and the logic board. The Geiger tube is the meat of the process. It is what actually detects
the ionizing radiation emitted by the unstable atoms in this universe.
The Geiger tube is filled with some inert gas and has a cathode and an anode within it. As the
radiation enters the tube, it begins to knock off electrons of the inert gas allowing current to
flow between the anode and cathode. This current is a short pulse that is read by the
microcontroller as a count.
Geiger Counter

22

Radiation is measured in Curies, or 3.7x10
10
disintegrations per second. How radiation interacts
with objects is known as a RAD, absorbed radiation dose, or 100 ergs of energy absorbed or 10
-5

Joules. An equivalent dosage in biological matter is known as a REM, which is just RADs
adjusted by a quality factor based on the kind of radiation absorbed.
Radiation emitted from a source can be expressed as a vector field, with the vectors extending
normal to the surface of the emitting source. The most common shape that everything can be
reduced to is a sphere. For the purpose of this experiment, the sample of Cesium 137 is so small
that it can reduced to a point. The defining fundamental equation for any emitted source from
a sphere has been the magnitude divided by the radius from the center squared, or in the case
of the Geiger counter and radiation: [2]
=

2

where CPM is the counts per minute picked up by the Geiger counter, and DPM is the
theoretical disintegrations per second of the emitting source. However, this assumes that the
Geiger counter completely encapsulates the source, where if you observe Figure 5, it does not.
The Geiger counter has a limited capability to
detect based on the relative ratio of the actual
exposed surface area of the Geiger counter to
the theoretical sphere defined by the previous
assumption. To get the true value being read by
the Geiger counter, the read CPM has to be
multiplied by an area factor that relates the
exposed area of the Geiger counter to the area
of the theoretical sphere, refer to Figure 5.
Essentially, it boils down to:

[3]

=

2
4
2
=

2
4
2
=

2
4
2

Thus:
[4]



2
4
2
=


Figure 5: Relative Geometries
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23

M-3-7 Calibration
Calibration of any device is performed by comparing the raw data from the
machine to a standard. In the case of the measurement of radiation using a
Geiger counter, the standard is a NIST calibrated source of radiation. For this
experiment, the provided source is a sample of Cesium-137 in a small blue
plastic disc, see Figure 6.
A Curie is a derived unit based on disintegrations per second. More specifically, a Curie is equal
to 3.7 10
10
disintegrations per second, or DPS. The Geiger counter receives counts. By
averaging the total number of counts over a given time period, the counts per unit of time can
be found. For this experiment, the averages are assumed to be calculated over the course of a
minute. By multiplying the Curie rate of the source material by the number 3.7 10
10
DPS, the
total DPS of the material can be found. By multiplying this DPS by 60, the disintegrations per
minute, or DPM, is found, and the point of comparison is formed. Each count is equivalent to a
disintegration of an atom. As such, the counts per minute, CPM, of the Geiger counter and the
DPM of the source have a linear relationship.
Due to the linear relationship of CPM to DPM, a fit can be formed to calibrate the device. To
find this fit, plot the theoretical values of the source versus the experimental values. Now,
perform a linear regression on the plot to find the fit in a form of Ax+B where n is the total
number of data points in Equations 5 and 6. To find the slope of the fit, or A, Equation 5 is
used.

[5] =
( ) ()()

2
()
2


And to find the intercept, or B, of the linear fit Equation 6 is used.
[6] =
()(
2
) ()( )

2
()
2


After performing these calculations, adjust the experimental values by the following form:
+ =



Figure 6: Cs 137
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24

M-3-8 Safety
According to the nuclear regulatory
commissions conservative stance regarding
radiological exposure, no amount of radiological
exposure is safe. However, the average person
in the United States receives a dose of
approximately 620mRem per year. The
breakdown of the sources of radiation exposure
in the United States is given in Figure 7, and a
comparison of radiation doses is given in Figure
8. [2]

Figure 8: Radiation Doses
Source: USNRC
As can be seen in Figure 8 moving from Huntsville, Alabama to Denver, Colorado would
increase an individuals annual radiation exposure by 140mRem. Based on the NRCs
conservative ideology, it stands to reason that an individual living Denver would have a higher
probability of expiring from cancers associated with radiological exposure. This is simply not the
case. The difficulty in establishing safe minimums with radiological exposure is the
indiscernibility from death related to low levels of exposure versus death due to other
particular factors. Essentially theres no statistical increase in cancers related to low levels of
exposure to radioactivity. The NRC is faced with a conundrum, if theres no way of determining
the risks associated with low levels of exposure to radioactivity, how can a safe exposure rate
be established? The NRC decided that a conservative stance to mitigate liability issues would be
the best route to take in establishing a threshold. For some perspective, when the space shuttle
Figure 7: Sources of Radiation Exposure
Source: USNRC
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25

was in operation, the maximum dose threshold considered safe for astronauts during a single
shuttle mission was 25,000mRem. The current annual threshold for the nuclear industry set by
the NRC is 5000mRem above average background
exposure. [2]
1 Ci of Cesium 137 sealed in plastic will be used
during this lab. The material safety data sheet
specifies the exposure values based on a milliCurie of
activity with respect to distance from the source. The
values given in Table 1 are derived values from the
MSDS adjusted to reflect exposure to 1 microCurie of
activity from Cesium 137. For the source being used
in this lab, the increase in exposure from ambient is so miniscule that the sample can be
considered benign.
General instructions to minimize health risks:
Despite the miniscule levels of radiological exposure present in this experiment, some general
guidelines for minimizing radiological exposure exist and should be adhered to:
The radiological source under no circumstances should be ingested.
A conscientious effort to minimize exposure to the source should be made.
At 12 inches of distance from the source the increase in exposure is virtually
indistinguishable from background.
If direct contact must be made to adjust the source, do so as expeditiously as possible.

M-4 Procedure
1. This section describes the setup of the experiment.
a. Start by ensuring that all of the necessary pieces of equipment are present.
b. Plug the Topographical Geiger Counter into the computer.
c. Download and open GeigerFinal.ino
d. Upload the sketch into the device.
e. Open the serial monitor to ensure that the device is reading values.
f. Set the Cesium source into the provided stand at least 1 cm from the opening of
the Geiger tube.
g. Let the sketch run for a minute before taking readings.
h. After the minute has passed, the Geiger counter is now ready for operation.
i. Close the serial monitor
Distance
(cm)
Exposure
(mRem/hr)
1 3.8
5 0.152
10 0.038
100 0.0038

Table 1: Calculated Exposure Values 1uCi Cs137
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26

j. Open Microsoft Excel.
2. This section of the experiment overviews the operation of the Geiger counter and the
gathering of data required for calibration.
a. With the source 1 cm away from the opening of the Geiger tube, open the serial
monitor and let the device collect the information for about 3 minutes.
b. After the 3 minutes, copy and paste the data into an Excel spreadsheet.
c. Close the serial monitor.
d. Repeat steps 2a-2c for 2 cm to 13 cm in 1 cm intervals of the distance between
the source and the Geiger tube.
M-5 Calculations
1. With the decay rate equation calculate the corrected decay of sample based on the time
elapsed since the sample was taken.
2. Plot the average of each CPM vs. distance.
3. Now calculate and plot on the same graph as the CPM vs. distance the theoretical CPM
per cm.
4. Plot the theoretical CPM vs. the experimental CPM.
5. Using the linear regression method described in the background, develop a calibration
curve. However, a simpler method is using computer aided calculation which will
automate the process, giving the intercept and the slope of the calibration curve.
6. Adjust the values of the experimental CPM using the derived calibration curve.
7. Calculate the percent difference between the theoretical CPM and the calibrated CPM
for each value.
8. Calculate the propagated uncertainty for DPM at 6cm.






Geiger Counter

27




Lab Report
Geiger Counter

28

L-1 Abstract
Radiation is everywhere; however it is still something that terrifies many people. The type of
radiation discussed in this lab is ionizing radiation is the type of radiation that is emitted when
an unstable isotope decays, undergoes fission, or releases energy in its return to ground from
an excited state. In this lab, a radiation counter, a Geiger tube, is calibrated. It is calibrated
using a series of steps from gathering data to plotting the data in such a way as to get the
calibration constants. As a result of calibrating this devise, the percent error between
theoretical values and experimental values drops to barely a fraction of what the error is before
calibration.
Geiger Counter

29

L-2 Background
This lab is designed to introduce the fundamentals of radiation. Also, this lab introduces the
measurement of radiation. Radiation is defined as the emission of particles or electromagnetic
waves induced by the disintegration of unstable atoms trying to become more stable that are
capable of creating ions in other particles, or ionizing radiation.
There are four different emissions of unstable radioactive atomic structures. These are alpha,
beta, gamma, and neutron decay. Each type of decay has its own particle or wave that it is
associated with. Each type also has a unique way of spreading into the environment after the
unstable particle decays.
Alpha decay, , is one of the most common decay types. Whenever a particle undergoes alpha
decay, it sheds a single
2
isotope particle into the environment causing the original atom to
decay two steps lower into the periodic table. Because this particle is so large, it can be caught
by almost anything of significant density, such as everyday clothes or paper.
Beta decay, , is more complex. This is because there can be a possible gain or loss of atomic
number within the unstable atom instead of just a sum total loss of mass. Because of this, there
are two types of beta decay. These are + . During + decay, a positron and an
election neutrino are emitted. This causes the unstable atom to decay one step down on the
periodic chain. refers to the phenomenon when an atom emits an electron and an
antineutrino that converts one of the neutrons within the unstable atom to a proton. Denser
materials are needed to stop the radiation emitted during beta decay because the particle size
is much smaller than that of alpha decay.
Gamma decay, , happens alongside alpha and beta decay. This occurs because a particle
remains in an excited state even after alpha or beta decay occurs. While being in this excited
state, the particle can emit a gamma ray the same way that electrons emit light when falling
from higher energy states. Gamma rays sit at an extremely high frequency and low wavelength.
Because of this, the odds of anything interacting with them are way lower than the other
radiation types making gamma rays safest of the types. However, gamma rays exist in
abundance compared to the other types due to the sheer amount of radioactive decay that
occurs within the universe.
Unstable atoms all have a half-life. A half-life refers to the time it takes for a current mass to be
reduced by one half. This term is used to describe the longevity of a sample and infers the
samples activity. The equation for determining the half-life is shown in Equation 1. In Equation
1, is the half-life,
0
is the number of initial radioactive nuclei, is the time, and is the
disintegration constant. Every radionuclide has its own distinct disintegration constant with
units of inverse seconds.
Geiger Counter

30

[1] =
0



This half-life differentiated with respect to time resulting in the rate of decay. This equation for
decay rate is given in Equation 2. This equation is known as the activity of a sample. In Equation
2,
0
is the decay rate at time 0, and is the decay rate at any subsequent time. The SI unit for
radioactive decay is the Becquerel or Curie where one Becquerel (Bq) equals one decay per
second and one Curie (Ci) equals 3.710
10
Bq.

[2] =
0



The radioactive sample used in this lab is Cesium 137. Cesium 137 is an unstable artificial
radioisotope fission byproduct. Its nucleus is made up of 55 protons and 82 neutrons. It has a
half-life of approximately 30.07 years. Figure 1 shows the decay chain of Cesium 137. A decay
chain is a chart that plots the kind of decay underwent by the atom and what it decays into
versus time. Figure 1 shows that Cesium 137 has two principle of decay. The first mode
happens infrequently (5.4% of the time). It is characterized by direct decay via beta emission to
barium in its ground state which is stable. The more frequent mode of decay (94.6% of the
time) is characterized by beta decay to a metastable excited state of barium which has a half-
life of 2.55 minutes. This metastable barium then moves to the ground state by the emission of
a gamma ray. The resulting proportion of gamma emission to beta emission is 85.1% gamma to
14.9% beta.

Figure 1: Decay Chain of Cesium-137
Geiger Counter

31

Radiation is detected with a device that is known as a Geiger counter. A Geiger counter
measures any significant amount of radiation and stores it as a count. It then will average all
of the counts over time and averages them to give a result in counts per some unit of time. A
Geiger counter is an integrated circuit that is made up of two major components: a Geiger tube
and a logic board. The Geiger tube is the device that actually detects the ionizing radiation
being emitted by the unstable atoms in the universe. The Geiger tube is filled with an inert gas
and has a cathode and an anode within it. As radiation enters the tube it begins to knock off the
electrons of the inert gas. This causes a potential difference between the anode and cathode.
Once enough electrons and gas ions are produced, the potential difference causes a small pass
of current that is read by the logic board as a count.
The way radiation interacts with objects is measured in RADs, absorbed radiation dose. One
RAD is equal to 100 ergs of energy absorbed (10
5
). An equivalent dosage of biological
matter is known as a REM which is a RAD that is adjusted by a quality factor that is based on
the kind of radiation that is being absorbed. Radiation that is being emitted from a source can
be expressed as a vector field with the vectors extending normal to the surface of the source
emitting radiation. The most common shape that everything can be reduced to is a sphere.
However, the sample of Cesium 137 used in this lab is so small it can be reduced to a point.
Therefore, it emits radiation in a sphere. The fundamental equation for any source from a
source from a sphere is the magnitude divided by the radius from the center squared, or for
this lab:
=

2

Where CPM is counts per minute picked up by the Geiger
counter and DPM is the theoretical disintegrations per minute
of the emitting source. This equation assumes the Geiger
counter completely encapsulates the source; however, it does
not as shown in Figure 2.
The Geiger counter cannot detect all of the radiation being
emitted in the theoretical sphere. It has a limited capability
relative to the ratio of the actual exposed surface area of the
Geiger counter to the theoretical sphere. To get the true value,
the measured CPM has to be multiplied by an area factor that relates the exposed area of the
Geiger counter to the area of the theoretical sphere as shown in Equation 3 and Equation 4.
[3]

=

2
4
2
=

2
4
2
=

2
4
2

Figure 2: Relative Geometries
Geiger Counter

32

[4]



2
4
2
=



Calibration of any device is performed by comparing data measured by a device to a known
standard value. In this case, the standard is a NIST calibrated source of radiation. The Geiger
counter receives counts from a radioactive source. By averaging the counts over a given time,
the counts per unit of time can be found. During this experiment, the averages are assumed to
be calculated over the course of a minute. The calibrated radiation source has a known Curie
Rate. A Curie is a derived unit that is based on disintegrations per second (DPS). A Curie is equal
to 3.710
10
DPS. Because of this, multiplying Curie rate of the source by 3.710
10
DPS will result
in the total DPS of the material can be found. Then, multiplying this number by 60 results in the
theoretical disintegrations per minute (DPM) is found. This results in an easy point of
comparison. Each count is equivalent to a disintegration of an atom. Because of this, the counts
per minute (CPM) of the Geiger counter and the DPM of the source have a linear relationship.
Due to this linear relationship, a linear fit can be formed to calibrate the device. To find this fit,
the theoretical values of the source are plotted versus the experimental values. Once plotted, a
linear regression of the plot is done to find the fit in a form of the equation of a line, Ax+B. To
find the slope, A, and the intercept, B, Equation 5 and Equation 6 are used where n is the total
number of data points.
[5]
=
( ) ()()

2
()
2

[6] =
()(
2
) ()( )

2
()
2


Once A and B are known, Equation 7 can be performed to adjust the experimental values.

[7] = +
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33

L-3 Procedure
This lab begins with the setup of the Geiger counter and
the stand for the calibrated radioactive source. To begin
the setup, the Arduino is connected to the computer via a
USB cable. Once connected, the appropriate files are
uploaded to the Arduino. Now that the Arduino contains
the necessary files, the GPS shield must be mounted onto
the Arduino. Next, the Geiger shield is placed on top of the
GPS shield and necessary pins are connected using wires.
This assembly is then placed and secured into a protective
container. This wiring and securing of the Geiger counter is
shown in Figure 3.
Next, the NIST calibrated source is placed into a frame that
is capable of holding the source in order to limit contact
with the radioactive material. This source is then placed 1
centimeter from the Geiger tube. This completed setup is
shown in Figure 4. The serial monitor is then opened on the
Arduino and the Geiger tube records counts for 1 to 2
minutes. Once the readings are gathered, they are copied
into an Excel spreadsheet. Now, the source is moved back
to 2 centimeters, and the process is repeated. This is done
in 1 centimeter increments until readings are known up to
13 centimeters.

L-4 Data, Analysis, and Results
This lab consisted of using the completed Geiger counter assembly to measure counts of
radiation from a calibrated source of Cesium 137. Measurements were taken starting at 1
centimeter from the Geiger tube and ending at 13 centimeters from the Geiger tube in 1
centimeter increments. When analyzing the data gathered by the Geiger tube, the first 60
seconds of data is always ignored. This is because the Geiger tube takes a minute to start giving
accurate counts. To begin analyzing the data the mean counts per minute of for each distance
from the Geiger tube was found. This was then compared to the theoretical counts per minute.
The theoretical counts per minute was found by multiplying the activity to Af found with
Equation 3. These values are shown in Table 1.
Figure 3: Geiger Counter Internals
Figure 4: Calibration Setup
Geiger Counter

34


As seen in Table 1, the error is entirely too high. This is expected considering the Geiger tube
has not been calibrated yet. To begin the process of finding the calibration constants, the
experimental and theoretical values are plotted versus distance from the Geiger tube. This plot
is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Experimental v. Theoretical Data
From observing this plot, it can be assumed that the Geiger tube used is not capable of
accurately reading the number of counts being emitted by the calibrated source at 1 cm. For
this reason, the data at 1 centimeter is ignored. Next, to find the actual calibration constants

cm Average CPM Theoretical CPM % error
1 18271 116048 84.26
2 8432 29012 70.93
3 4032 12894 68.73
4 1901 7253 73.79
5 1238 4642 73.34
6 825 3224 74.40
7 676 2368 71.47
8 508 1813 71.97
9 393 1433 72.55
10 312 1160 73.09
11 287 959 70.05
12 232 806 71.23
13 191 687 72.21
Initial Data Calculations
Table 1: Uncalibrated Geiger Data
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35

the theoretical disintegrations per minute are plotted vs the experimental counts per minute.
The resulting plot is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Calibration Plot Experimental CPM v. Theoretical DPM
After plotting these values, two different fits are applied, a linear fit and a polynomial fit. The
polynomial fit is actually a little better; however, it is not better enough to justify the added
complexity in calculations. The calibration constants are gathered from the linear fit. These
constants follow the equation for a line, = +. From the linear fit it is now known that for
this Geiger tube = 3.449 and = 33.89. These values can now be used to correct the initial
values gathered by the Geiger tube. The corrected values are shown and again compared to the
theoretical values in Table 2 below. As seen in Table 2, the percent error dropped drastically
from the initial comparison.

cm Average CPM Theoretical CPM corrected average %diff (theoretical and corrected)
2 8339 29012 28800 0.73%
3 3998 12894 13826 7.23%
4 1892 7253 6560 9.55%
5 1248 4642 4340 6.49%
6 847 3224 2956 8.29%
7 675 2368 2361 0.30%
8 494 1813 1737 4.21%
9 397 1433 1404 2.02%
10 317 1160 1128 2.82%
11 290 959 1034 7.76%
12 232 806 835 3.62%
13 192 687 695 1.22%
Table 2: Calibrated Geiger Data
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36

The first step in quantifying the uncertainty in any method of measure, is to identify sources of
uncertainty. To do so efficiently Equation 8 is provided for analysis.
[8]
@ = (

2
4
2
)

DPM@R is the total expected activity per minute at distance R from the source. DPM is the
theoretical activity based on a NIST calibrated source with an uncertainty of 5%. The variable r
is the radius of the Geiger tube. The specifications indicate that it is accurate to within +/-
.00005 meters. R is the distance the face of the Geiger tube is from the point source in meters.
An estimated uncertainty of this measure is +/- .001 meters.

[9]
=
0

1
2

)


To calculate the theoretical total DPM, first convert the number of days since calibration to
seconds. Today is March 23, 2014, calibration of the Radiological source was performed on
February 18, 2014. 33 days equals 2851200 seconds. Next, convert the half-life of the sample to
seconds (30.07 years equals 9.49E8 seconds). Finally, plug the values into Equation 9 as shown
in Equation 10. The corrected disintegrations per second equals 37367.416 Bq.
R0 = 37370 Bq
= .02305 S
-1

t = 2851200 S / 9.49E8 S

[10] = (37370)
(.02305)(2851200/9.498)


= 37367.416 Bq

The calibration standard listed a 5% tolerance in the activity of the sample.
5% of R = 1868.371
Max Bq (R + 5%) = 39235.787
Min Bq (R -5%) = 35499.045

Multiplying these calculated values by 60 will serve to convert Becquerel to disintegrations per
minute.
Geiger Counter

37

Mean Bq to DPM = 2242044.96
Max DPM = 2354147.22
Min DPM = 2129942.7

It should also be considered that there exists an error in time. Observed error in time was an
additive variance of 1 microsecond. However, this error is negligible when compared to the
much larger sources of error inherent in the system.
Propagated Uncertainty
For the purposes of quantifying the overall propagated uncertainty, a middle of the road
distance was used. During calibration, readings at distances of 1cm to 13cm were taken. As
such, a distance of 6cm was chosen for the propagated uncertainty. The Kline-McClintock
equation, shown in Equation 11, is used for calculating propagated uncertainty. [3]
Kline-McClintock Equation

[11]
F = [
F
x

]
2

=1

Where F equals DPM@R=6cm, taking the partial derivatives of equation 8 yields:
F
(DPM)
=

2

2
(DPM)

F
r
=
2()

2
r

F
R
=
2()
2

3
R
With the given variables:
R = .06 meter
R = .001 meter
r=.00455 meter
r = .00005 meter
DPM = 2242044.96 DPM
DPM = 112102.26 DPM

Geiger Counter

38

Plugging into equation 11 yields equation 12:

[12] F =
[
. 00455
2
. 06
2
112102.26 ]
2
+[
2 (2242044.96)(.00455)
. 06
2
.00005]
2
+[
2(2242044)(.00455)
2
. 06
3
.001]
2


Which upon solving yields a propagated uncertainty of 825 disintegrations per minute at 6
centimeters with a mean of 3223DPM or 25% total uncertainty about the mean. If the R
measure had an uncertainty of +/- .002 meters (2mm), the propagated uncertainty would
increase to 35%. Accurate distance measures during calibration is crucial.
L-5 Conclusion
This lab focuses on calibrating a Geiger tube. This is done by taking measurements from a
calibrated radiological source in one centimeter increments beginning 1 centimeter from the
counter and ending 13 centimeters from the counter. Then plotting these measurements and
theoretical measurements versus distance to ensure experimental measurements are valid.
Next, the theoretical disintegrations per minute should be plotted vs. the experimental counts
per minute to get the calibration constants. Finally, apply the calibration constants to the
experimental measurements. The results from applying this process in this lab turned out
extremely well. The percent error after calibration is hardly a fraction of the initial percent
error.

One of the most fundamentally misunderstood physical phenomena in the world today is
radiation. A mere mention of the words nuclear or radiation conjures awe inspiring images of
the destructive capabilities of fission. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima, Chernobyl, are all
examples of the horrific potential that is contained within the humble atom. As a people we
tend to narrow our vision to catastrophic events and place little to no weight on the beneficial.
It is a cognitive dissonance that has developed over years of evolution, dating back to a time
when it was common place for a person to be the midnight snack of a large predator. A person
is exponentially more likely to die in a car accident than a radiological incident, but yet a
healthy person does not fear getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. The fear stems from
ignorance. As an educated people we are responsible for making conscientious, informed
decisions. Thus, developing an understanding of radiation is of paramount importance.

Geiger Counter

39

References

[1] D. Halliday, R. Resnick and J. Walker, "Nuclear Physics," in Fundamentals of Physics 9th ed, Jefferson
City, John Wiley & sons Inc., 2011, pp. 1165-1186.
[2] USNRC Technical Training Center, "United States Regulatory Commission: Training," 1 March 2014.
[Online]. Available: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/unit1.html. [Accessed 1
March 2014].
[3] UAH, "Lab Manual: MAE 450 Lab 1: Uncertainty," University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville,
2014.