Film badge dosimeter

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The film badge dosimeter,[1] or film badge, is a personal dosimeter used for monitoring cumulative radiation dose due to ionizing radiation.

The badge consists of two parts: photographic film, and a holder.[2] The film emulsion is essentially black and white photographic film with varying grain size to affect its sensitivity to incident radiation. Some film dosimeters have two emulsions, one for low dose and the other for high dose measurements. These two emulsions can be on separate film substrates or on either side of a single substrate. After use, the film is removed from a packet that protects it from light exposure and developed to measure exposure. The film badge is used to measure and record radiation exposure due to gamma rays, X-rays and beta particles.[3] An interesting aspect is that when the film is irradiated, an image of the protective case is projected on the film. Lower energy photons are attenuated preferentially by differing absorber materials. This property is used in film dosimetry to identify the energy of radiation to which the dosimeter was exposed. Knowiing the energy allows for accurate measurement of radiation dose. The device was developed by Ernest O. Wollan whilst working on the Manhattan Project,[4] though photographic film had been used as a crude measure of exposure prior to this. In fact, some of the early scientists working with what turned out to be radioactive materials discovered this property because photographic film had been stored nearby and images were projected on the film by the radiation emanating from the material.

Though film dosimeters are still in use worldwide there has been a trend towards using other dosimeter materials that are less "energy dependant" and can more accurately assess radiation dose from a variety of radiation fields with higher accuracy.


The silver film emulsion is sensitive to radiation and once developed, exposed areas increase in optical density (i.e. blacken) in response to incident radiation. One badge may contain several films of different sensitivities or, more usually, a single film with multiple emulsion coatings. The combination of a low-sensitivity and high-sensitivity emulsion extends the dynamic range to several orders of magnitude. Wide dynamic range is highly desirable as it allows measurement of very large accidental exposures without degrading sensitivity to more usual low level exposure.

Film holder[edit]

The film holder usually contains a number of filters that attenuate radiation, such that radiation types and energies can be differentiated by their effect when the film is developed.

To monitor gamma rays or x-rays, the filters are metal, usually lead, aluminum, and copper. To monitor beta particle emission, the filters use various densities of plastic or even label material. It is typical for a single badge to contain a series of filters of different thicknesses and of different materials; the precise choice may be determined by the environment to be monitored. The use of several different materials allows an estimation of the energy/wavelength of the incident radiation.

Filters are usually placed on both the back and front of the holder, to ensure operation regardless of orientation. Additionally, the filters need to be sufficiently large (typically 5 mm or more) to minimize the effect of radiation incident at oblique angles causing exposure of the film under an adjacent filter.


Radiation safety badges for individual workers at the Jackson Laboratory, Maine.

The badge is typically worn on the outside of clothing, around the chest or torso to represent dose to the "whole body". This location monitors exposure of most vital organs and represents the bulk of body mass. Additional dosimeters can be worn to assess dose to extremities or in radiation fields that vary considerably depending on orientation of the body to the source.

The dose measurement quantity, personal dose equivalent Hp(d), is defined by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) as the dose equivalent in soft tissue at an appropriate depth, d, below a specified point on the human body. The specified point is specific to the position where the individual’s dosimeter is worn.[5] Tissue depth of interest include the tissue depth of the live layer of skin (0.07 cm), lens of the eye, (0.30 cm), and "deep" dose, or dose to the whole body (1.0 cm).

The film badge is still widely used, but is being replaced by Thermoluminescent Dosimeter (TLD), Aluminum Oxide based dosimeters, and the Electronic Personal Dosimeter (EPD).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "film badge dosimeter". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  2. ^ "film badge dosimeter". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  3. ^ "Film badgespublisher=NDT Resource Center". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  4. ^ Pardue, L. A.; Goldstein, N; Wollan, E. O. (1948). "Photographic film as a pocket radiation dosimeter". Atomic energy in biophysics, biology and medicine 1 (5): 169. PMID 18878757. 
  5. ^ ICRP publication 103 - glossary

Further reading[edit]