DIY Geiger Counters Take Center Stage

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DIY Geiger Counters Take Center Stage

MAKE’s interview with hardware hacker Akiba highlighted a fascinating trend: individuals and small groups taking their safety into their own hands by creating, modifying, and networking radiation detectors, a.k.a. Geiger counters, rather than relying on governments for information. The following projects and kits aim to put Geiger counters in the hands of ordinary makers.



Pachube is a realtime data infrastructure platform for the Internet of Things, managing millions of datapoints per day from thousands of individuals, organisations and companies around the world. Pachube’s powerful and scalable infrastructure enables you to build “Internet of Things” products and services, and store, share and discover realtime sensor, energy, and environment data from objects, devices, and buildings around the world.

Geiger Maps Jp

Geiger Maps Jp is a web service to visualize the radiation doses in various locations registered at Pachube (patch-bay), a platform to store, share, and discover environmental data. Various timeline-views are available to compare different points in time such as a day, a week, a month, or a year.

Ustream Your Geiger Counter

Note that this is a somewhat deprecated; Pachube does a much better job at aggregating sensor data.

With all the interest of radioactive particles reaching western shores from the failed reactors in Japan, I decided to get out my geiger counter that I made over 20 years ago. Readings from my counter can be shared with the world in real time with Ustream. Ustream is a website that allows you to make your own Live broadcasting channel for free. All that is needed is a fast and reliable internet connection.

Tokyo Hackerspace/RDTN Geiger Shield

This project, to be funded via Kickstarter, hopes to create and distribute Arduino-based Geiger counter shields throughout Japan. is a website whose purpose is to provide an aggregate feed of nuclear radiation data from governmental, non-governmental and citizen-scientist sources. That data will be made available to everyone, including scientists and nuclear experts who can provide context for lay people. In the weeks following launch, it has become evident that there is a need for additional radiation reporting from the ground in Japan. This Kickstarter project will help us purchase up to 600 Geiger Counter devices that will be deployed to Japan. The data captured from these devices will feed into the website and will also be made available for others to use via Pachube, an open-source platform for monitoring sensor data globally.

More information on the shield project.


Strawberry Linux Geiger Counter Kit

Prior to the Fukushima meltdown, Strawberry Linux made the most popular radiation detector kit in Japan. It’s USB-powered, detects alpha, beta, and gamma rays, and displays the readings on a LCD. Note that — understandably — the kit has been sold out since the earthquake hit and is not expected to be back in stock until later this month.

Images SI Geiger Counter Kits

Images has a series of cool kits, but they’re completely sold out — do you detect a trend?

Geiger Counters are useful for detecting radioactivity and performing nuclear experiments. The models GCK-01 and GCK-02 are offered as kits as well as assembled. The assembled and tested Geiger counters have the “A” suffix. These Geiger Counters primary indicators are an audio click and an LED blink each time a radioactive particle is detected. Count Rate VS Dose Rate chart on front of counter provides an indication of radiation based on clicks per second.

The Model GCK-02 has an internal Geiger-Mueller tube. The model GCK-01 has an external wand that houses Geiger-Mueller tube (GMT-01) and provides a easy to use probe for checking radioactivity. The GM Tube is a Ne + Halogen filled, with a .38” effective diameter 1.5-2.0 mg/cm2 mica end window.

The company also has a guide to building your own.

SK Science Kit Solar-Powered Geiger Counter

Solar is a nice touch, given Tokyo’s rolling blackouts and battery shortages! But, wait for it! — the kits are temporarily out of stock.

Conduct radiation studies anywhere, anytime. This device is a sophisticated and compact low-level radiation detector designed for field and laboratory use. Its mica end-window Geiger-Muller tube is sensitive to alpha, beta, gamma, and x-ray radiation. Its wide LCD screen displays count, counts per minute, and mR/hr, along with elapsed time and capacitor charge state. Events are indicated both visually and with a mutable chirp. The solar powered unit is capable of operating indoors too, with a charged capacitor of 2 AA batteries.

SparkFun SEN-09848 Geiger Counter

Another sold out kit, Sparkfun’s SEN-09848 kit looks quite tiny. Also, you can buy just the Geiger-Müller tube from them… though of course it’s sold out.

This is a USB powered Geiger Counter equipped with an ATMega328 that can be programmed in circuit using one of the programmers below. Simply plug the unit into USB (make sure you have FTDI drivers installed), open a terminal program to the correct COM port at 9600bps, and you will see random bits being generated from the random background radiation. Each bit generated (actually an ASCII byte, 0 or 1) represents an actual event in the tube in real-time, so the output can be used to deduce CPM or what ever units you need. Here at SparkFun, on average, we get about 25 counts a minute.

Chaney’s Geiger Counter Kits

Some of Chaney’s kits use more limited Russian Geiger-Müller tubes that only detect gamma or both gamma and beta rays; other models detect alpha, beta and gamma. The good news is that these kits are all over the place and seem to still be in stock!

This sensitive geiger counter kit uses a Russian geiger mueller tube and a microcontroller IC to measure and display radiation counts on a 3 digit display. The counter is sensitive to beta and gamma rays and will indicate the presence of radiation with a click from the built in speaker and a brilliant blue-green flash from an LED. In addition the microcontroller IC outputs the count to a pale yellow 3 digit display (the display is visible indoors but not bright enough to viewed outdoors in order to conserve battery life). The unique feature of the microcontroller digital output is that you can select either counts per minute or total counts to be displayed.

The unique feature of the microcontroller digital output is that you can select either count per minutes or total counts to be displayed. The total count display uses a unique set up with multiplier Leds to indicate 10, 100, 1000 times counts allowing the counter to display 999,000 before an overflow LED lights up.

Libelium Radiation Sensor Board

This Arduino-compatible kit is out of stock — the company said it sent their supply at no charge to groups in Japan. However, they are accepting pre-orders.

Detect Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation integrating any Geiger Tube which works in the range 400V – 1000V and read this levels using Arduino. As well as from the terminal, the radiation levels can be shown using different actuators:
– Piezo: it allows us to hear the typical “chirp” common in the radioactivity counters
– LEDs: 3 green and 2 red let easily to show low, medium and high levels
– LCD: it displays the counts per minute (cpm) and the equivalent absorbed energy levels in Servants (µSV/h).

You can learn more about the kit here.

Seeed Studio

Open Source hardware company Seeed Studio hopes to have a kit soon…

Well, as always our product will be open-sourced and hackable with flexible working conditions and at a comparatively lower price. Importantly, they will be plenty of stock. And we are also thinking a distribution pattern calls “sell one, donate one”. Briefly, customers buy a Geiger counter from us, and we consequently donate one to Hackerspace or other communities in Japan.

Ideally, this will happen in the following weeks. We are going to send some samples to the Japan for further testing, and then the first 100 pieces may be available at the end of April. Thanks again for the support!


Homemade Geiger Counter Instructable

Publishing this one in a hurry, in case it is useful to our friends in Japan. This is a simple Geiger counter circuit. It does require some specialized parts, in particular a Geiger tube and some high voltage Zener diodes, but the rest of the components are readily available. If you’re feeling like experimenting, try making your own Geiger tube… see the last step of this instructable for some comments on that.

Building A Radiation Detector Out Of An Old Compact Camera

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Mr. Fission, a Custom Geiger Counter

Like it’s long lost brother, “Mr.Coffee”, this homemade Geiger counter affectionately called “Mr.Fission” will not only tell you if you are sitting on a nuclear weapon, but might also save your life if you can get it built before anything really bad happens.

[Published previously on MAKE.]

MarkusB’s DIY Geiger Counter

MarkusB of Lets Make robots designed this simple Geiger counter. If you’ve somehow come across a Geiger counter tube and want to make a detector out of it, this could be just the thing you need. His design uses only commonly available parts, and is powered by a 5v power supply.

[Also published previously on MAKE.]

BroHogan’s DIY Geiger Counter

YouTube player

YouTube user BroHogan demonstrates a GC kit he’s working on. It sounds like these will be made available any day now.

Galactic Electronics’ Geiger Counter

This is a simple Geiger counter that uses a small 500 Volt Geiger-Mueller tube and is powered by a 9V battery. The counter produces audible clicks through a small speaker that represent ionizing radiation passing through the Geiger-Mueller tube. The high voltage power supply is basically the same high voltage power supply featured in another project listed in Galactic Electronic’s web site. Battery life is about 14 hours continuous operation with an alkaline battery. This Geiger counter has a low battery indicator. The “Low Bat” LED glows when the battery power is not enough to sustain the 500 Volts required by the Geiger-Mueller tube.

Did we miss any important links for DIY radiation detectors? Leave the URL in comments.

19 thoughts on “DIY Geiger Counters Take Center Stage

  1. Scott Smith says:

    The broader topic of creating your own tech solutions is something I wrote about recently here: . The Pachube example was one, but there are an increasing number of DIY innovations being created to supplement or substitute for failure of govt to provide assistance and protection.

  2. Paul Holloway says:

    Useful tip – most smoke detectors contain americium 241 which is mostly an alpha emitter, but emits some gamma (I get 90 cps using a gamma counter right next to my smoke detector). I don’t know of any other common domestic sources of radioactivity people can use to test their counter is working.

    1. Anonymous says:


    2. carl says:

      Pink Granite is often pretty hot.

  3. Dean W. Armstrong says:

    Hi John–
    Try looking at Charles Wenzel’s site; start at but he’s got so many additional projects it’s amazing. I built a simple ion chamber of his for the simplicity of it and it certainly worked in detecting an alpha source.

  4. James says:

    The Electronics Goldmine has a good assortment of Geiger counter kits and tubes.

  5. Dave Brunker says:

    You missed one, this Geiger counter is connected to a smart phone:

  6. Anonymous says:

    Actually, the Tokyo Hackerspace/RDTN geiger shield is just one of the designs they are planning. They have one guy that was a radiation consultant for Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and is also a geiger counter manufacturer. He’s helping teach us a lot of the calibration methods. Bunnie Huang is also involved and I’m expecting to see a Chumby-based geiger soon. That would be awesome!

  7. Promotional Pens says:

    Thanks for the link to Pachube. Seeing the levels and how they are distributed gives a better perspective of the event.

  8. Jasper Huxley says:

    look at chapter 8. Simplest geiger counter there is.

  9. Jasper Huxley says:

    Download the PDF of chapter 8. Simplest geiger counter there is.

  10. Anonymous says:

    West Coast Americans need these! Too many lies, and much cover-up associated with the Fuckoshima disaster. Finally, this mess is equated with Chernobyl, but the whole drama is yet to unfold. It may even take centuries! American designed, GE Mk5 reactors generate plutonium, use dangerous uranium for fuel to satisfy the uranium cartel operated by Western Capitalists. This will not dissipate soon!
    China spends Billions of Yuan to develop the already American proven, feasible, but plutonium free Thorium fueled reactors – no capitalist cartel to respect, to protect, to bow down to, there.
    Will the Fuckoshima disaster mark the end of dangerous uranium fueled, plutonium generating reactors? Hell No! just the beginning of another corporate white-wash, a snow-job to convince those of ethical, moral, values that they perceived things wrongly. China, however, will develop safer, decommissionable, Thorium fueled, plutonium free, high efficiency reactors to provide nuclear electric fuel for her ever-expanding bullet-train networks, daisy-chaining them from Europe’s eastern borders, to Siberia, and to the China Seas. America, in the meantime, will stick to current contracts with the parasite OPEC nations and continue to base its economy on foreign oil, no matter how high the price. Metering radiation may lead to DIY detective work and some very frightening results in America. We need a website devoted to this, maps, levels, calibration instructions, meter sensitivities, even GPS locations of Hot Spots, who knows what evil lies beneath government wraps.
    Good on you for providing the instruments necessary to keep America clean.

  11. John says:

    The “BroHogan” Geiger shown was just the beginning of what now is a low cost Geiger Kit.
    You can find this kit at:

  12. T-Shirt Responds to Pollution Levels says:

    […] DIY Geiger Counters take Center Stage […]

  13. Pasty says:

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  14. Seven more reasons why journalists should learn to fly unmanned aircraft | sUAS News says:

    […] was the public to do? They didn’t wait for the data. Hackers began piecing together Arduino microcontrollers with Geiger counters and sharing their data … They also shared their designs, so others could replicate the nodes and expand the sensor […]

  15. chrono says:

    We’ve also put some time and effort into building an even more easy, hackish and cheap open-source approach to interface geiger counting tubes to a Raspberry PI, as a ready-to-go drop-in module. The design of the module is universal enough to connect to other plattforms like ATMega, Arduino, PIC and many more embedded linux ARM systems. It’s called PiGI. More info on:

  16. Uncover the Universe’s Mysteries From the Comfort of Home | Look Magazine says:

    […] detectors.” Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami DIY sites proliferated with instructions of how to make these devices. Some included wireless data loggers allowing for crowd-sourced radiation data […]

  17. Uncover the Universe’s Mysteries From the Comfort of Home | Nagg says:

    […] detectors.” Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami DIY sites proliferated with instructions of how to make[17] these devices. Some included wireless data loggers allowing for crowd-sourced radiation data […]

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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