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The purpose of a particle cloud chamber is to detect various types of particles that are present or pass through the chamber viewing area. Though there are many different types of chambers to chose from, it was decided that a continuous, dry ice-based model be built. In the dry ice-based model a supersaturated cloud is formed at the bottom of the alcohol filled chamber. The dry ice creates a temperature gradient which causes the supersaturation. Many different variations were tested and built until a stable prototype was completed. With the prototype complete, a larger scale model will go under production boasting a much larger viewable area. With this model it will be possible to accurately study the affects of a magnetic field to determine particle charge and energy.
Cloud chambers are very interesting in that they demonstrate first hand radiation trails emanating from an alpha source. "Video Analysis of Cloud Chamber Phenomena"8 states that the best way to view this phenomena is to incorporate a camcorder. The article argues that camcorders increase the amount of people that can view the experiment without overcrowding. Also this technique provides increased resolution and magnification, thus making beta tracks visible. In this article, Jason Cassidy concludes that the use of a camcorder is more convenient, practical and the cloud chamber a more powerful tool.
In the "Sourcebook on Atomic Energy"3 the author concludes more saturation and pressure results in increased frequency of radiation trails. Other ways of increasing the frequency of trails are to use methyl alcohol and having a large difference in the temperature gradient. Although these factors increase activity, at best the sensitive region is only three inches deep. Nevertheless those three inches are all one needs to conduct the experiments. The author also states that cloud chambers are still widely used today for studying high-energy particles obtained from accelerators.
John Timothy and Mary Ann Sankey7 review cloud chambers, pointing out the construction and experimentation involved. They state that chambers are relatively cheap and easy to produce. A typical petri dish combined with black tape and felt could produce a crude chamber. In addition to some dry ice, an alpha source, and a lamp are required to conduct the experiments. In closing the author points out that the cloud chamber makes the nuclear world seem more real to students for they can view it, first hand, indirectly.
Why indirectly? As charged alpha particles pass through the supersaturated environment, the particle ionizes the gas around it, thus creating a vapor trail. So what is seen is really alcohol vapor ionized by the disturbance of an alpha particle. Some people say that this phenomena displays radiation itself; they can say that, but similar to electrons, we can only see w
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