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How To Make A Radioactive Particle Detector

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Make a radioactive particle detector with things from around the house… and a few harder to get extras. In this Mission Unstoppable clip with host Amanda Cosgrove, nuclear engineer Dr. Ciara Sivels demonstrates how to make this particle detecting cloud chamber.

Her equipment: A clear container, felt, 90+% isopropyl alcohol, some gum or modeling clay to seal the container, aluminum trays, and two specialty items: dry ice and thoriated welding rods.

setting up the chamber
Dr. Sivels and Fig O'Reilly
Watch as Dr. Sivels assembles the particle detector with correspondent Fionnghuala “Fig” O’Reilly. Sivels also explains how to identify the difference between alpha and beta particles in your DIY chamber.

cloud chamber
up close with the particles
Find some background and DIY support from the Build A Cloud Chamber instructions by the team at Science Friday:

“All around you, and on every surface of the earth, there is radiation pummeling the atoms that make up the matter that we can see and feel. Even as you read this sentence, you are being bombarded by radiation. Pew! Pew!

“But fear not, it’s completely normal. This background radiation is safe. And though it cannot be seen directly, you can build a cloud chamber to help you indirectly observe radiation and begin to understand it.”

Their site also includes a field guide for identifying different path types caused by the different types of radiation.

particle detector

TEACHING RESOURCES:
• Build a Cloud Chamber with Science Friday
• How to Build the World’s Simplest Particle Detector with Scientific American

Watch these related videos on TKSST next:
• DIY Cloud Chamber – How to build your own particle detector
• Adiabatic expansion and how to make a cloud in a bottle
• How to make a cloud in your mouth
• How to grow snowflakes in a bottle
• What is a comet made of? Dara Ó Briain’s Science Club demonstrates
• Icy Bodies by Shawn Lani, a dry ice exhibit that mixes science with art

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