Over the years we’ve covered many projects aimed at detecting elevated radiation levels, and a fair number of them have been Internet connected in some way. But as they are often built around the Soviet-era SBM-20 Geiger–Müller tube, these devices have generally adhered to a fairly conservative design. With the current situation in Europe heightening concerns over potential radiation exposure, [g3gg0] thought it was a good a time as any to revisit the idea of an Internet-connected Geiger counter using more modern components.
Now to be clear, even this modernized approach still makes use of that same SBM-20 tube. There’s such an incredible wealth of information floating around out there about how to work with them that you’d almost put yourself at a disadvantage to chose something else to base your design on. Put simply, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic.
That said, [g3gg0] decided early on that the design would use as many SMD components as possible, a considerable departure from many of the SBM-20 counters we’ve seen. That meant coming up with a new high-voltage power supply capable of providing the tube with the necessary 400 V, which from the sound of things, took a few attempts to complete. The final result is perhaps the smallest and cleanest looking board we’ve ever seen play host to this particular tube.
To run the show, [g3gg0] selected the ESP32-PICO-D4. You certainly don’t need such a powerful microcontroller to read the impulses from the SBM-20 tube and publish them via MQTT, but to be fair, the chip has a number of other duties. It’s handling the WS2812 RGB LEDs that go off in response to detected particles, running the (apparently optional) 2.9 inch WaveShare electronic paper display, and also pulling data from a BME280 environmental sensor as well as a CCS811 VOC sensor — so it’s keeping fairly busy.
As impressive as this build is, we do hate that it had to be built. From certain world leaders dropping casual comments about the strength of their nuclear arsenal to foolhardy attempts to capture the Chernobyl power station, having access to a reliable Geiger counter isn’t an unreasonable precaution right now. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the fancy RGB LEDs on this particular build remain as dark as possible.
With all the focus on biological problems, we might forget that sometimes it’s handy to know about radiation hazards, too. [Ryan Harrington] shows us how to make a Geiger counter with very few parts, and you can see the results in the video below.
The glut of surplus Russian tubes has made this a common project, but we were amused to see the main part of the high-voltage supply was gutted from a cheap electronic flyswatter sourced from Harbor Freight. Even without a coupon, it only costs about $4.
There’s also a stack of zener diodes, a transistor, and some resistors. A battery, a piezo speaker, and a switch round out the bill of materials. Even then, the switch was upcycled from the flyswatter, so there’s not much to buy.
Need a random number? Sure, you could just roll a die, but if you do, you might invite laughter from nearby quantum enthusiasts. If it’s truly, unpredictably random numbers you need, look no farther than the background radiation constantly bombarding us from the safety of its celestial hideout.
In a rare but much appreciated break from the Nixie tube norm of clock making, [Alpha-Phoenix] has designed a muon-powered random number generator around that warm, vintage glow. Muons are subatomic particles that are like electrons, but much heavier, and are created when pions enter the atmosphere and undergo radioactive decay. The Geiger-Müller tube, mainstay of Geiger counters the world over, detects these incoming muons and uses them to generate the number.
Inside the box, a 555 in astable mode drives a decade counter, which outputs the numbers 0-9 sequentially on the Nixie via beefy transistors. While the G-M tube waits for muons, the numbers just cycle through repeatedly, looking pretty. When a muon hits the tube, a second 555 tells the decade counter to stop immediately. Bingo, you have your random number! The only trouble we can see with this method is that if you need a number right away, you might have to go get a banana and wave it near the G-M tube.
Whether this all makes sense or not, you should check out [Alpha-Phoenix]’s project video, which is as entertaining as it is informative. He’s planning a follow-up video focused on the randomness of the G-M tube, so look out for that.
Generating random data is incredibly hard, and most of the random data around you isn’t truly random, but merely pseudo-random. For really random data, you’ll have to look at something like radioactive decay or *holds up spork* something like this. YouTube commenters will also suffice. The idea of using random data for generating musical notes is nothing new, but [Danny]’s experimental MIDI controller is something else. It’s a MIDI controller with the control removed, generating random musical notes based on radioactive decay.
The design of this controller is based on an off-the-shelf Geiger counter kit attached to an Arduino. The Arduino code simply counts up in a loop, and when the Geiger tube is triggered, an interrupt sets off a bit of code to generate a MIDI note. That’s simple enough, but where this project excels is its documentation. There’s a zine going through all the functions of this MIDI controller. There are single note or sequencer functions, a definable root note and scale type, an octave range, and velocity of the note can be set.
This is just a MIDI controller and doesn’t generate any noise on its own, but the video of the device in action shows off the range. [Danny] is getting everything from driving bass lines to strange ambient music out of this thing with the help of some synths and samplers. All the code and necessary files are available on the GitHub, with the video available below.
It started as a joke, as sometimes these things do. [Marek Więcek] thought building a personal radiation detector would not only give him something to work on, but it would be like having a gadget out of the Fallout games. He would check the data from time to time and have a bit of a laugh. But then things got real. When he started seeing rumors on social media that a nearby nuclear reactor had suffered some kind of radiation leak, his “joke” radiation detector suddenly became serious business.
With the realization that having his own source of detailed environmental data might not be such a bad idea after all, [Marek] has developed a more refined version of his original detector (Google Translate). This small device includes a Geiger counter as well as sensors for more mundane data points such as temperature and barometric pressure. Since it’s intended to be a stationary monitoring device, he even designed it to be directly plugged into an Ethernet network so that it can be polled over TCP/IP.
[Marek] based the design around a Soviet-era STS-5 Geiger tube, and outfitted his board with the high voltage electronics to provide it with the required 400 volts. Temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity are read with the popular Bosch BME280 sensor. If there’s no Ethernet network available, data from the sensors can be stored on either the built-in SPI flash chip or a standard USB flash drive.
The monitor is powered by a PIC32MX270F256B microcontroller with an Ethernet interface provided by the ENC28J60 chip. In practice, [Marek] has a central Raspberry Pi that’s polling the monitors over the network and collecting their data and putting it into a web-based dashboard. He’s happy with this setup, but mentions he has plans to add an LCD display to the board so the values can be read directly off of the device. He also says that a future version might add WiFi for easier deployment in remote areas.
[Radu Motisan] Has entered a cool project into the Best Product portion of this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s called an Open Source IoT Dosimeter. It has a Geiger tube for detecting radiation levels along with Internet connectivity and a host of other goodies.
Dubbed the KIT1, this IoT dosimeter can be used as a portable radiation detector with its Nokia 5110 LCD as an output or a monitoring station with Ethernet. With its inbuilt speaker, it alerts users to areas with excessive radiation. KIT1 is a fully functioning system with no need for a computer to get readouts, making it very handy and easy to use. It also has room for expansion for extra sensors allowing a fully customized system. The project includes all the Gerbers and a BOM so you can send it off to a PCB fab lab of your choice, solder on a few components, and have a fully functioning IoT Dosimeter. you don’t even need the LCD or the Ethernet; you can choose which output you prefer from the two and just use that allowing for some penny-pinching.
This is a great project and who doesn’t need an IOT Dosimeter these days?
If you’ve been putting off your own Geiger tube project, and we know you have, [Michal]’s detailed explanation of the driver circuit and building one from scratch should help get you off the couch. Since a Geiger tube needs 400 volts DC, some precautions are necessary here, and [Michal] builds a relatively safe inverter and also details a relatively safe way to test it.
The result is a nice piece of decor that simultaneously warns you of a nuclear disaster by flashing lights like crazy, or (hopefully) just makes a nice conversation piece. This is one of the cooler Geiger tube hacks we’ve seen since [Robert Hart] connected up eighteen Geiger tubes, and used them to detect the direction of incoming cosmic rays and use that to compose random music (YouTube, embedded below).