I am a sensorophile. I like to measure and keep logs of anything. Sometimes it is even pathetic to the extent that I am really disappointed if I am not able to read the registration codes of a plane I have traveled on. (e.g. When boarding a Fokker 100 from a jet bridge it is almost impossible to read its registration given the obstruction by the engines.)

I would extend my logging to the levels of radiation I am exposed to on any flight. Is there any way that I can measure and more importantly log that personal exposure to that radiation?

  • 3
    Is this really a travel question? Seems off-topic to me.
    – Bernhard
    Dec 22 '13 at 19:12
  • I would say it's a pretty weird travel question, but a travel question nonetheless. It's what Joel Spolsky calls "the long tail". Dec 23 '13 at 2:35
  • See added circuit and comments at end. Dec 29 '13 at 22:57

This page provides an excellent overview of radiation types and what you are most liable to encounter. For airline flights gamma-radiation is the most probable type. (Alpha particles are stopped by paper, Beta by thin foil or similar.

You can buy commercial instruments that will detect radiation for from about $200 on up.

An off the shelf "PIN diode" acts as an adequate gamma radiation detector in many cases. Here is a PIN diode radiation detector design from Maxim. Their notes are worth reading in this context. Source

They say: Abstract:

  • A PIN photodiode, four low-noise op amps and a comparator are used to detect individual photons of gamma radiation. The schematic, design considerations and component selection are discussed.

    The circuit of Figure 1 includes a PIN photodiode that detects individual photons of gamma radiation. When a photon strikes a depletion region created by reverse bias on the photodiode, it produces a small amount of charge in proportion to the photon's energy. The resulting signal is then amplified and filtered by four amplifiers and a final comparator distinguishes between the signal and noise. The comparator output pulses high each time a gamma photon with sufficient energy strikes the photodiode.

enter image description here

$4000 on up products

$220 product. Russian made

$200 & $350 commercial products.


Here is a description of a DIY real world Gamma Ray detector based on a PIN diode.
Made by VK2ZAY - Australian radio-amateur. A number of other on-web designs are based on his work.

Photodiode Gamma Ray detector

4 minute You tube description good.

Here is a Hackaday article describing the same article

Related videos - same device here and here and here - finished product - 10 minute video

enter image description here

  • Now comes a new question, is this device allowed onboard ;) Dec 21 '13 at 23:10
  • @Halabi There is no GOOD reason that the device would be not allowed on board. That may not stop some people causing trouble.If the detector is exposed to light it will give a reading. Shield the detector from visible light and it will read high energy invisible light aka Gamma rays. It does not transmit any signal. It could be connected to a recorder and have no visible display. YMMV :-). Dec 22 '13 at 14:41

If you'd accept a calculation, rather than requiring potentially expensive equipment to measure it, there's a website that does that for you:

Calculate the dose received

From one of their document pages:

Generally, detectors only provide correct readings for some of these particles. To obtain a correct measurement, it is necessary to use a series of detectors or certain meters that "see" all of the components of cosmic radiation. Unfortunately, the use of such devices is not suitable for normal conditions on commercial flights.

  • 3
    That tool will never tell you if you are expetionally highly exposed for some reason. This is maybe to get a rough estimate.
    – Bernhard
    Dec 22 '13 at 19:08
  • @Bernhard yes, clearly, that's why it's just a calculation, as stated.
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 23 '13 at 5:21

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