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Gadget Freak Case #219: Watching the Alpha Sparks Fly

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tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Great Demo
tekochip   7/9/2012 11:26:32 AM
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I agree, what an excellent demo.  You've got sights and sounds that can easily be perceived even in an Internet video.  Really nice job.

Island_Al
User Rank
Gold
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
Island_Al   7/9/2012 4:07:22 PM
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@CLMcDade

Dead on that the term "useless" is inappropriate in this forum. While watching the video I was thinking about the possibility of adding a light sensor and micro to act as an event recorder. I have piles of what others would consider useless devices, but I learned from each project.  In my life TV and sports watching are useless, but I would not wish to stop anyone from doing so. I too want to thank John for taking the time for his contribution in both hardware and the video production.

 

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Great Demo
Rob Spiegel   7/9/2012 5:36:29 PM
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Good thinking, MrBill. All of these Gadget Freak submissions are good teaching tools. Many of them are even submitted by students. We've had a bunch submitted by college-level engineering student teams. Recently we had a submission by a 15 year old.

westfw
User Rank
Iron
Re: Great Demo
westfw   7/10/2012 1:57:35 AM
You know someone has re-spun the classic cloud chamber to use Peltier coolers instead of dry ice:  http://www.nothinglabs.com/cloudchamber/

This spark detector design is different from the Willis design, particularly in the size of the ballast resistor (500 ohms vs "several megohms"); and explanations for the changes?

And where does the HV supply module come from?

 

Fred McGalliard
User Rank
Silver
Re: Great Demo
Fred McGalliard   7/10/2012 1:10:31 PM
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Hi. This was great. Very Nostalgic for me. I haven't seen a spark chamber at work since the 1960s worlds fair in Seattle.

Of value? Well, that depends on whether or not you do particle physics. I can see I will have to build one to impress my 4 year old grand daughter. Just have to figure out the safety protocols for little fingers and 8KV, eh.

j-allen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
j-allen   7/10/2012 5:31:22 PM
NO RATINGS
Al;ha detection useless?  Unless you consider Ernest Rutherford's historical Experimenmt that led to our modern nuclear atomic theory.  This was based on the production and detection of alpha particles.  Alpha detection through ionization and sparks has been insespensible throughout the development of modern atomic and particle physics.  Please. Mr shjacks, do your homework before picking up your pen. 

armorris
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Sparks or sparklers?
armorris   7/10/2012 9:06:14 PM
NO RATINGS
You do not need a light sensor to electronically detect the sparks. Do what they do in a Geiger counter. Connect a capacitor from the ballast resistor (the metal plate in this case) to a small one-transistor amplifier. Each spark would would produce a pulse from the transistor that could be counted by a microcontroller or other counter circuit. There would not be two sparks simultaneously. Once a spark starts, the voltage is too low for another to begin. If two particles hit at EXACTLY the same time, the one with the most energy would prevail IMO. It should therefore, be an accurate count of the number of sparks.

I would move the ballast resistor and the capacitor to the grounded side of the HV power supply, however. Less stress on the coupling capacitor and the connected transistor.

mrdon
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Great Demo
mrdon   7/21/2012 6:57:19 PM
NO RATINGS
Great project by John who is masterful in High Voltage Electronics. Gadget Freak projects are excellent teaching materials for all levels of science and engineering classes and student. Keep up the great work Design News staff.

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