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Detectors for Non-ionizing Radiation

written by: Om Thoke • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 10/24/2010

What is the definition of non-ionizing radiation, and how do we measure it if it's present? These are not easy questions to answer because of the very broad spectrum of energy represented in this class of emissions. This article covers what engineers and technicians need to know.

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    What is Non-ionizing Radiation?

    Non-ionizing radiation is electromagnetic radiation that does not include ample energy per quantum to ionize molecules or atoms. In other words, it does not have sufficient energy to remove the electrons from the outer shell of molecules or atoms.

    Various types of non-ionizing radiation include visible light, ultraviolet (UV), radio (and television), microwave, and extremely low frequency (ELF) energy. This means that such radiations are produced by a range of appliances or gadgets used in our day-to-day life, laser lines, power lines, etc. and encountered in our work.

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    Hazards Involved With Non-Ionizing Emissions

    Non-ionizing emissions are not always safe. They may include a number of health hazards, which we'll touch on briefly, and they are used in many kinds of occupational settings. People who are exposed to such rays are at a higher risk of related health hazards than others.

    Given below are few of the hazards involved:

    • Radio frequency (RF) radiation- 3 KHz to 300 MHz- is absorbed throughout the body whereas microwave (MW) emission- 300 MHZ to 300 GHz- is absorbed by the skin. Intense exposures to both kinds of rays damage tissues through heating. The main sources of these rays are cell phones and radio emitters (transmitters).
    • Infrared (IR) radiations are absorbed by eyes and skin as heat. This has an effect of heat sensation and pain due to overexposure. Sources of IR emissions are heat lamps, IR lasers, furnaces, etc.
    • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is very hazardous; however, there are no immediate symptoms of intense exposure. It has a high photon energy range and the sources include black lights, sun, UV lasers, welding arcs, etc.
    • Visible light radiation is seen by our eyes as different frequencies of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum; overexposure can cause damage to skin and eyes.
    • Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation ranges around 60 Hz and the common sources are high voltage power lines and induction furnaces. The health risks involved are controversial; however, there are possibilities of neurological, carcinogenic, hormonal, and reproductive effects.
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    How do Non-Ionizing Radiation Detectors Work?

    Detection of non-ionizing radiation is very important so that caution can be taken to follow the correct protocols. Non-ionizing radiation detectors do this job perfectly; there are several types of radiation gauges and other kinds of detectors available to estimate the levels associated with such emissions.

    Non-ionizing radiation types are typically categorized in the lower frequency range - it ranges from extremely low frequency range to the high UV range; the detector units for such emissions generally include a network of sensors for detecting frequencies in this range. They display an output DC voltage that is proportional to the input signal (frequency) to move a needle or display on a digital readout.

    Based on this read-out, the type of non-ionizing rays is confirmed and the necessary safety methods can be incorporated. However, the detection method may vary depending on the type of non-ionizing emission to be detected.

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    Radar Detector

    As an example, a common radar detector is a form of non-ionizing detector, and you can read more about radar detector detectors here.

    The US OSHA website provides information about regulations and practices dealing with non-ionizing radiation. You can find a link to their entry page below.

    Does your workplace expose you to non-ionizing radiation? If so, what instruments for measuring the strength and providing for worker safety are employed? Tell us about it in comments. (Comments are moderated and may take time before they appear.)