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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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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CRT Paddle Wheel

A beam of cathode rays (electrons) impinging on a paddle wheel cause it to spin and travel down the vacuum tube.

crookes tubes

What it Shows

A paddle wheel is suspended by its axle inside a Crookes tube so that when the paddle vanes spin the entire wheel is free to travel the length of the tube...

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Rutherford Scattering

What it shows:

A qualitative demonstration of Rutherford's α-particle scattering experiment using magnetic pucks on an air table.

How it works:

In its simplest form, we use an Ealing air table, 1 1m square, with a fixed magnetic puck at the center. A second puck with the same polarity is repelled and scattered by the first; the scattering angle being dependant upon the impact parameter b (see figure 1). A more complex setup is described in the Comments.


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Collisional Broadening

What it shows:

Perturbation by colliding atoms in a high pressure gas result in the broadening of emission and absorption lines. This is clearly seen in the sodium D (589nm and 589.6nm) lines of a high pressure sodium lamp.

The broadening in frequency width is dependent upon the separation of the perturbing particles (Novotny 1973) by

∆ν ∝ r-n

With n=2 the broadening is due to the coulomb field of an ionized atom or electron; this is the linear Stark effect. With n=3 the interaction is between neutral atoms of the same type; this...

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Street Lamp Spectra

What it shows:

Unlike the continuous spectrum emitted by blackbody radiators, the light given off by atoms in a gaseous discharge is characterized by its discreet nature. Using street lamps for the light sources, bright atomic spectra of mercury or sodium are projected onto a screen.


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Fraunhofer Absorption

What it shows:

Sodium 'D' line absorption showing up as a black line in the yellow of a continuous spectrum. Good as a simulation of the sodium portion of the Fraunhoffer absorption spectrum caused by atoms in the solar atmosphere; it does not however, resolve the 5890/5896Å doublet.

How it works:

As in the Sun, which is a black body source surrounded by an atmosphere of cooler gas containing many heavy atoms including sodium, we can set up a black body spectrum using a slide projector, and provide a hot sodium 'atmosphere' using...

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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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Electron Diffraction

What it shows:

Louis de Broglie predicted that matter under certain circumstances would exhibit wave-like properties. A proof of this is the repeat of X-ray diffraction experiments using electrons, whose de Broglie wavelengths at high accelerating potentials are similar to X-ray wavelengths. Here we accelerate electrons into crystal targets and get diffraction patterns identical to those from X-ray diffraction.


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Wien's Displacement Law

Changes in the spectral intensity distribution of a hot tungsten filament are observed as the temperature is varied.


How It Works

A slide projector (Beseler Slide King II) with a 1kW lamp and adjustable lens is plugged into a Variac. The light from the projector passes through an inline...

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