We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Gamma Counter?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The device known as a gamma counter measures gamma radiation in a sample. Working on the same principle as a scintillation detector, these counters use crystals which emit light when photons from the gamma rays interact with them. Samples are usually placed into test tubes, which are then placed into the machine. Gamma counters are generally used in research labs since most are not portable.

Gamma radiation, or gamma rays, is a harmful type of high-energy radiation which consists of photons of light, or quantum particles. Photons are emitted as a radioactive substances decays, or attempts to become stable. Unlike less harmful types of radiation, gamma rays are not stopped by skin or clothing and can enter the body, damaging or killing cells. Lead is generally used to shield people from the harmful effects of gamma radiation.

Like a scintillation detector, gamma counters rely on crystals with luminescent properties to work. This means these crystals light up, or scintillate, when they come in contact with gamma radiation. The more they light up, the more radiation a sample is emitting. The light energy is usually converted into electric energy via a photomultiplier in order to give the scientists a meaningful measure.

The accuracy of the counter is dependent upon the crystal used. If the radiation is low, and therefore interacts little with the luminescent crystal, the light photons may not register. Conversely, if radiation is extremely high, it may be powerful enough to pass straight through the crystal without interacting enough to produce light as well. Thick crystals help to reduce on these non-reactions, and so are extremely important in quality gamma counters.

Modern gamma counters may have multiple detectors and channels for samples. Machines also usually have lead shielding to help protect researchers from radiation. Many gamma counters are approximately the size of cash registers or photocopiers, with a small electronic screen attached for readouts.

There are also small gamma counters, not much larger than a square foot (0.3 m2). Even the small counters, however, are not easily portable, as the lead shielding makes them extremely heavy despite their size. A square foot size counter may weigh as much as 55 pounds (25 kg).

Proper calibration is extremely important when working with gamma counters because they produce such precise measurements. Many counters have internal calibration which rely on light emitting diodes. Some older counters may need to be calibrated by hand, however. When calibrating by hand, a substance with a known radiation and approximately the same volume as the sample to be tested is used as a reference.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.