Cloud Chamber

What It Shows

The path of a single charged particle can be made visible in cooled supersaturated air/alcohol vapor.

How It Works

The cloud chamber was developed by C.T.R. Wilson at the turn of the...

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Thoron Decay

What it shows:

The very first determination of a half-life for a radioactive decay was made by Rutherford. 1 In a study of the properties of thorium emanation, he found that the intensity of the radiations fell off with time in a geometric progression. That historically important result is reproduced in this demonstration experiment. The gas thoron, or thorium emanation, is an isotope of radon (86Rn220) which decays by α emission and has a half life of 55.6 seconds. 2 Using an emanation electroscope, we observe the...

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β-Ray Deflection

What it shows:

β-rays emanating from a radioactive isotope are deflected from their straight line paths by a magnetic field.

beta particle

How it works:

90Sr/90Y, a "pure" beta-minus source, emits a continuous spectrum of...

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γ Ray Inverse Square Law

What it shows:

Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiations which we detect as quanta of energy or photons. When the radioactive source is confined so that it acts as a point source, the diminution in the number of photons incident on a given area is such that the intensity is inversely proportional to the square of its distance from the source.

How it works:

A Co-60 source (1.173 and 1.332 MeV gammas) radiates isotropically. A Geiger-Müller counter is used to detect the radiation intensity at distances of 2, 3, and 4 meters. The...

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α, β, γ Penetration and Shielding

What it Shows

The interactions of the various radiations with matter are unique and determine their penetrability through matter and, consequently, the type and amount of shielding needed for radiation protection. Being electrically neutral, the interaction of gamma rays with matter is a statistical process and depends on the nature of the absorber as well as the energy of the gamma. There is always a finite probability for a gamma to penetrate a given thickness of absorbing material and so, unlike the charged particulate radiations which have a maximum range in the absorber...

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α, β, γ, n Sources and Detection

What it shows:

Radiations originating from atomic and nuclear processes are classified into four types:

charged particulate radiation consisting of
1. heavy charged particles (α)
2. fast electrons (β)
uncharged radiation consisting of
3. electromagnetic radiation (γ, x-ray)
4. neutrons (n)

The interaction processes of each type of radiation explain their penetrability through matter, their difficulty or ease of detection, and their danger to biological organisms. The interactions of these radiations with matter are unique and the...

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Green Glass Candy Dish

What it shows

How could the fluorescence of the glass in a Crooke's tube generate x-rays? This was the question Henri Becquerel addressed in 1896. His experiments with fluorescence in uranium salts and subsequent discovery of radioactivity are recreated in this demonstration.

How it works

Instead of uranium salts, we use a green glass candy dish—the green glass being uranium glass, a popular consumer item in the 1950's! The green glass fluoresces brilliantly when illuminated by UV (a "black light") and, although not particularly "hot," a Geiger-Mueller counter held...

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Roller Coaster Potential

What it shows:

Potential energy curve with potential barrier illustrates electron-atom, atom-atom or ion-ion interactions.

How it works:

This is a one dimensional potential well model with a potential hill that can be used to represent several scenarios. The wooden model is made of a sandwich of three strips of plywood (1/4"-1/2"-1/4") forming the cross section as shown in figure 1. A 1" ball bearing fits snugly enough into the groove that it won't fly out when it hits the barrier.

figure 1. The roller...

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Potential Well Orbiter

Orbital motion simulated by ball rolling on wooden potential well.

What it shows:

Motion in a central potential is demonstrated by a ball rolling on a circular 1/r curved surface.

How it works:

The 1/r potential well simulates the gravitational potential surrounding a point mass; a ball bearing moving in this potential follows a parabolic or elliptical orbit depending upon its initial trajectory and velocity. As it loses energy due to friction, the orbit decays and the ball spirals towards the centre of the well. You could...

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Periodic Potential

What it shows:

Ball bearings simulate atoms in a lattice sitting at local potential minimums. Giving them energy excites the atoms and they oscillate about their equilibrium positions in these wells; only with large amounts of energy can they be truly dislocated.

How it works:

A piece of wood 100 × 25 × 2cm acts as the ‘potential’ structure of the lattice. The atoms, 3cm diameter ball bearings sit at the bottom of a cosine varying potential cut to about 10cm depth in the wood by a jig saw.The balls are held in the 2-dimensional...

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Resonance Radiation/Absorption

What it shows:

For an electron to make a transition from one energy level to a higher one, it needs to absorb a photon who's energy is equal to the difference in the energy levels involved. When jumping back down, it will emit a photon of that same energy. These discrete energy separations are characteristic of the atom involved, and it's what provides an atom with its fingerprint line spectrum. Trying to induce a transition with a photon of different energy just doesn't work.

In this demonstration, light from a sodium source will be absorbed by sodium gas...

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