A Geiger Counter For An Off-Road Apocalypse Vehicle


If the world comes to an end, it’s good to be prepared. And let’s say that the apocalypse is triggered by a series of nuclear explosions. If that is the case, then having a Geiger counter is a must, plus having a nice transport vehicle would be helpful too. So [Kristian] combined the two ideas and created his own Geiger counter for automotive use just on the off chance that he might need it one day.

It all started with a homemade counter that was fashioned together. Then a display module with a built-in graphics controller that was implemented to show all kinds of information in the vehicle. This was done using a couple of optocouplers as inputs. In addition, a CAN bus interface was put in place. As an earlier post suggests, the display circuit was based on a Microchip 18F4680 microcontroller. After that, things kind of got a little out of control and the counter evolved into more of a mobile communications center; mostly just because [Kristian] wanted to learn how those systems worked. Sounds like a fun learning experience! Later the CPU and gauge was redesigned to use low-quiescent regulators. A filtering board was also made that could kill transients and noise if needed.

The full project can be seen on [Kristian]’s blog.

33 thoughts on “A Geiger Counter For An Off-Road Apocalypse Vehicle

  1. Finally, something I need.
    I’ve built my flux capacitor and really need something to track radiation levels until I can get my Mr Fusion.
    Honest, very nice build. Beautiful UI. You might be setting a new standard in the field of radiation safety.

  2. >And let’s say that the apocalypse is triggered by a series of nuclear explosions.
    Then there’s a pretty high chance that this cool microcontrolled device will be burn or will malfunction. Good job.

    1. Nah. EM burnout issues only happen on long runs. Most things not plugged in to mains power or long copper will survive an EMP with ease. If it burns in the literal sense, well, there wont be anyone around it to care anymore anyway.

    2. I’m pretty sure that if someone were close enough to have his microcontrollers burnt by the radiation, this person would have bigger problems (like a damaged bone marrow and defective DNA)

      1. There are end-game scenarios where an airburst in the upper atmosphere would cause an EMP that wreaks havoc across the better part of a continent. Though to be fair unless you’re plugged into the grid for charging/power this device wouldn’t likely be affected.

        Related, how well do consumer MCUs hold up to radiation exposure? Would this device fail before it’s user in hazardous environments?

  3. I like the whole unit – especially the APRS display.

    That said, I wonder why he decided to start a project of a “survivalist vehicle” with this particular project? I mean, if you are going to do such a project – wouldn’t you start with the vehicle first?

    1. he started small? Maybe he already has a Suzuki Sidekick to put it in?
      As mentioned in the movie “Damnation Alley”, their vehicle was designed to use “commonly available truck parts” to make post apocalypse repairs possible.

  4. PIC18F as 18-bit micro? Really? Another case of non-Arduino ignorance?

    This descirption was directly lifted from an old post on the blog linked in the article. But even a cursory read-over should have caught that, even if the editor wasn’t familiar with the otherwise well known PIC18F 8-bit micros.

    This article ia full of technical details. Please at least read over the article to make sure the glaringly obvious mistakes are fixed.

    1. Do you ever wonder why the majority of people DON’T point out things like this? Not because we are just stupid like you probably think. But because we are smart enough to know it was just a typo and it is extremely insignificant to the content. You see… most people do not need to pause on every single word in order to understand. We can simply scan over many paragraphs of text, pick out the key information, and ignore the rest.

      18F in part number + 8 bit micro = brain fart. Not a huge mystery how it happened.

      Most people have this amazing ability to simply skip over spelling and grammatical mistakes and still understand each other just fine. And without even noticing it! Some people can even do it in multiple languages. Dud u kmqw twat mest peple cin stull red tis santance wathout eben slawing don? Is it because we are stupid, or because the human brain is just amazing like that?

      Did you know that, in most human languages, there are numerous alternate spellings for the same words and all are correct? That there are literally hundreds of ways to write a sentence with the same context?

      I know, blasphemy, right?! It must drive you absolutely insane!

      What, exactly, does correcting an insignificant typo contribute to (rather than detract from) the discussion? Were you the guy that thought you would get extra credit for pointing out typos in your textbooks? Do you correct every text message coming from your friends, family, significant others? I bet you are a pleasure to talk to!

      Most of us simply move on with our day. But not you, of course. Apparently, you are so much smarter than the rest of us!

      Do you have something to contribute other than offering free copy-editing services?

      I’m not just being a dick here. I am genuinely curious what drives people like you to feel so compelled to point out things that are so obvious, yet insignificant, to others? Is it a superiority complex? Aspie? A strong need to contribute something when you have nothing else? Your mother didn’t love you enough?

      (Yes, this was ridiculously long on purpose…)

      1. While I agree that I also dislike the tone that some of these comments have, don’t discourage feedback. Even negative feedback is good feedback. Perhaps a comment etiquette tutorial is needed?

      2. lol. thanks for the copy.

        But more minute details go by unnoticed here all the time. And guess what? Not everyone who reads this site knows the details. But then I guess they don’t really look far into technical details just as the editors don’t after copying verbatim from the source so what does it matter, right?

        Ah well. The internet is fun. Can I subscribe to your rants?

  5. Rad detector, what’s this, the 1950s? The nature of modern nuclear warfare has deviated from ground strikes for decades now. No one has to destroy a technological foe by blowing them up anymore. Heck no! You simply hit the off switch by EMP striking them now. Then you simply sit back, and let their society devolve into the helpless savages that they really are. It ain’t quick, clean, or painless, but damn, it sure is effective. Then you’re not showering yourself with all kinds of radioactive fallout too.

    I bet most folks that frequent this board would be completely helpless babies if I just took their smartphones away from them. In a severe EMP event it’d be a tad worse than that too. Just a bit.

    But this article highlights the biggest problem, the complete lack of understanding most have when it comes to a nuclear war. Your own ignorance is ultimately what is going to destroy you. The smart folks that run the show know that! Fscking sheep.

      1. Then you can consider yourself not most folks I suppose. Anyone who isn’t completely self sufficient is going to be dramatically impacted by a nuclear war though. That is like just about everybody too. Even completely self sufficient types could likely be adversely affected. You know, when the zombie hordes invade their land? I imagine many that live in densely populated area will flee to the countryside in hopes of acquiring resources they need to survive. They ain’t gonna get them, but they’re gonna try.

        Us hicks in the sticks are pretty heavily armed against such an event. So those folks should just die in place. Or not, we’re going to need fertilizer, which is what all the city slickers that come out here are going to look like to us.

        I already got a chipper. heh

          1. Listen more carefully. I’ve said nothing that should suggest I want things one, way or the other. I rather like modern conveniences. I even have indoor plumbing dontcha know?

    1. And then wait a week whilst the Poles and Wires company of your choice de-magnetizes the transformers and replaces a few burnt out insulators. In the mean time, call in an electrician to repair the damage to your house wiring and go down to the local market to replace the transformers burnt out. EMP strikes or Solar Flares do not bother me too much. If I survive the minor fire risk, there is not much to threaten me. Any nuclear fallout will effect the entire world (you are still breathing in Cesium from the early air based nuclear weapons tests).

      1. Your local electrical utility probably stocks (at most) 10% of the replacement parts needed for post-EMP recovery, their suppliers probably have a similar inventory, the manufacturers of the replacement parts probably switched to “Just-in -Time” long ago. So the utilities will quickly run out, their suppliers witll quickly run out, and the mfgr’s will be dead in the water, because their utilities won’t have enough parts to get the manufacturing restarted. The goverment bodies local to the mfgr’s will force the local utilities to allocate their parts for “public safety”.

      2. You sound to me like you do not understand the problem well enough to fully appreciate it. What happens when you pass a moving magnetic field across a conductor? You get current flow! Electrical grids are enormous conductors and EMP can be a very energetic magnetic field. Transformers will not be simply magnetized, they will be totally burnt out. The situation gets compounded due to a loss of command, and control structure because communications networks are also destroyed. Our society is a very complicated, and delicate machine. Throw a big enough wrench in it and it gets completely wrecked.

        All it takes is for the lights to be out 24 hours in metropolitan areas and you get riots. They won’t have the lights back on in less than 24 hours either, you can count on that!

  6. 21st century MCU and screen, coupled with technology that reached it’s peak in the 50s… why not use diode based detectors? Once you factor in the price of the power supply, the diodes cost almost the same…
    Or if the cost is NOT an issue, you can actually buy a silicon photomultiplier and a scintillator of your choice…

    1. Several people have given me comments of this. If I could avoid 400 volts on the board, that would be great. And there are some cool ways to use modern devices. However, the major issue is the physical area that you are using to detect radiation. The semiconductor devices are very small while the tubes present a lot of surface area to the radiation flux. Using two tubes, the detector gives me great resolution ant the ability to detect rather small variations in the detected radiation. I sample ‘ticks’ every 10 seconds, displaying the last 6 slots as a counts-per-minute value. This gives a great indication of whether you are getting closer or further related to a radiation source. Semiconductor devices are not suited for low-radiation, high-resolution measurements like this.
      And, more importantly, the tubes lend a bit of ‘steampunk flare’ to the project, don’t you think?

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