A Geiger counter consists of a tube filed with a gas such as argon
or helium at reduced pressure. When radiation enters the tube through a
thin window at one end, it removes electrons from the atoms of the
gas. The gas atoms become positively charged ions. The electrons move through
the positively charged ions wire in the tube, setting up an electric current.
The current, which is amplified and fed into a reordering or counting device,
produces a flashing light and a clicking sound. The number of flashes and
clicks per unit of time indicates the strength of radiation. A counter
attached to the wire is able to measure the amount of radioactivity by
measuring the amount of current.
Spiderwort detects radiation that conventional instruments don't.
A Cloud chamber contains evaporated alcohol. Dry ice surrounding the
chamber causes the alcohol vapor to condense. When a radioactive substance
is put inside the chamber, droplets of alcohol condense around the radioactive
particles. The droplets formed around the particles of radiation in a cloud
chamber leave trail that shows up along the chamber lining. An alpha particle
leaves a short fat trail, while a beta particle leaves
a long thin trail.
The bubble chamber is similar in some ways to the cloud chamber, although
its construction is more complex. A bubble chamber contains superheated
liquids, in most cases hydrogen. A superheated liquid is hot enough to
boil, but does not. Instead it remains in liquid phase.
An electroscope is a simple device that consists of a metal rod with
two thin metal leaves at one end. If an electroscope is given a negative
charge, the metal leaves separate. In this condition, the electroscope
can be used to detect radioactivity.
Radioactive substances remove electrons from molecules of air. As a
result, the molecules of air become positively charged ions. When a radioactive
substance is brought near a negatively charged electroscope, the air molecules
that have become positively charged attract the negative charge on the
leaves of the electroscope. The leaves discharged, or lose their charge
Radon Detection kit. The National Safety Council provides
a simple radon testing kit for $9.95
National Safety Council
PO BOX 33435
Washington DC 20077-2854
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