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Gadget Freak Case #219: Watching the Alpha Sparks Fly

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bdcst
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
bdcst   7/9/2012 9:52:19 AM
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Ouch Sparky!  Well if you must have a visual show I suggest abandoning the dangerous HV and going for a Cloud Chamber.  They are easy to build and the thickness of the vapor trail makes it easy to distinguish between alpha, beta or gamma (cosmic) radiation.  As a child I saw my first cloud chamber at a Russian technology exhibit at the New York Coliseum back in the late 1950's.  Both the Soviet Union and that NY exhibition hall are long gone.

shjacks45
User Rank
Bronze
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
shjacks45   7/9/2012 3:48:10 AM
Why publish something so useless? Your alpha source would need to be actually sitting on the metal plate to show activity. Alpha particles, even high energy particles, are stopped by our surface layer of dead skin. If you've ever used a cloud chamber you would know that alpha particles are stopped by a few inches (the size of the project) of air.

j.iovine
User Rank
Iron
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
j.iovine   7/7/2012 12:18:08 PM
NO RATINGS
I feel it has great educational potential. It allows one to visually see the detection of alpha particles. 

While this device will only detect alpha particles, spark chambers are used to see the passage of cosmic rays.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpW08xV3RI8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spark_chamber

 

 

armorris
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
armorris   7/7/2012 11:35:53 AM
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A counter circuit would be very easy to implement. A Geiger counter works in an identical way, except that there is some gas inside a Geiger tube. There is both analog and digital means to do the job. Of course, without a known standard, you couldn't calibrate it. Although this is a cool gadget to play around with and for educational purposes, does it have any practical use? I understand that skin, and even paper stops alpha particles. That's why an alpha source (Americium, I think) is used in smoke detectors.

j.iovine
User Rank
Iron
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
j.iovine   7/6/2012 10:09:46 PM
NO RATINGS
I'm sure a counter could be implemented into the design. Do you think it would have value?

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
Rob Spiegel   7/6/2012 12:46:46 PM
NO RATINGS
Good suggestion on a gadget, Naperlou. Anybody up for it?

naperlou
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
naperlou   7/6/2012 10:47:48 AM
Just right, Beth.  Build a big enough one and you wouldn't need fireworks.  I am not sure that would be safer, though.

Long ago I worked on spark and wire chambers.  I even helped with a needle chamber.  In those cases we wanted to see the track of any charged particle, so we had a chamber of a noble gas.  This ionized and the spark followed the ionized trail.  This simple detector is a great little project.  Now all we need is a cirsuit to count the particles.  Next project?

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Sparks or sparklers?
Beth Stackpole   7/6/2012 7:51:55 AM
Looks like a fun project and perfect timing for the Fourth of July!

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