What is Cloud chamber: Definition and 49 Discussions

A cloud chamber, also known as a Wilson cloud chamber, is a particle detector used for visualizing the passage of ionizing radiation.

A cloud chamber consists of a sealed environment containing a supersaturated vapour of water or alcohol. An energetic charged particle (for example, an alpha or beta particle) interacts with the gaseous mixture by knocking electrons off gas molecules via electrostatic forces during collisions, resulting in a trail of ionized gas particles. The resulting ions act as condensation centers around which a mist-like trail of small droplets form if the gas mixture is at the point of condensation. These droplets are visible as a "cloud" track that persists for several seconds while the droplets fall through the vapor. These tracks have characteristic shapes. For example, an alpha particle track is thick and straight, while an electron track is wispy and shows more evidence of deflections by collisions.
Cloud chambers played a prominent role in experimental particle physics from the 1920s to the 1950s, until the advent of the bubble chamber. In particular, the discoveries of the positron in 1932 (see Fig. 1) and the muon in 1936, both by Carl Anderson (awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936), used cloud chambers. Discovery of the kaon by George Rochester and Clifford Charles Butler in 1947, also was made using a cloud chamber as the detector. In each case, cosmic rays were the source of ionizing radiation.

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  1. marshall-10488

    B Why is My Homemade Cloud Chamber Not Working?

    So I made a cloud chamber. I'm using 99.9% isopropyl alcohol, And a lot of it soaked into cotton wool at the top of a fish tank. That's on top of a metal plate painted black with socks filled with dry ice from fire extinguishers (can't buy dry ice easily in the UK). I leave it for 10 mins or...
  2. Tristan_Ruel

    I Help getting my Cloud Chamber to work please

    Hello! I'm currently building a cloud chamber, my end goal is to make it powered by Peltier chips but that won't happen until I can make it work with dry ice. I've been able to achieve a supersaturated layer of isopropyl alcohol in the chamber, however, even with very radioactive uranite...
  3. edusmartin

    B Cloud Chambers - I to know what particle this is

    Hi, my son is fan of the Quantum Physics and we developed a cloud chamber. I'm attaching an image of particle sequence and I will like to find some help to know witch particle is. I will appreciate any help on it. Thanks
  4. Kosdon3200

    I What are these directional energetic particles?

    In addition to the usual alpha and beta particles visible in my condensation cloud chamber, I see occasional tracks that seem highly energetic -they easily penetrate the entire width of the cloud chamber (10-12 inches) going in one side and out the other. More mysteriously, their orientation is...
  5. Merlin3189

    Cloud chamber - electron tracks? - solved

    Following a thread on building a cloud chamber I searched some other sites and encountered some eg. diagrams of electron tracks which puzzled me. I searched for actual photos and found some very irregular tracks ascribed to electrons, but nothing like these. I can't see how they could arise...
  6. N

    Misc. Problem with my cloud chamber -- have a mist but no tracks

    Hi, For a few weeks I'm trying to build a Peltier based cloud chamber. I use a stack of 3 Peltier (from the bottom, a tec1-12710 12v, tec1-12710 5v, tec1-12709 5v and on top a 60mmx60x2.5 copper plate). I mesured -37° celcius on top of the last Peltier ans -27° on the copper plate. I also have...
  7. hagopbul

    Cloud chamber approach to stopping hurricanes

    mod note: positively no politics will be allowed Hello All: The current hot topic on the news is using nuclear weapons against hurricanes . But couldn't we use other approaches ,using some nuclear reactors mounted in a plane or balloon that emit calculated levels of radiation in the center of...
  8. HotFurnace

    B Effects of Cooling and Heating in a Cloud Chamber

    Good day everybody! As we have already known the structure and operation of the cloud chamber, can someone explain to me why the cooling is done at the bottom of the chamber and the heating at the top, but not vise versa?? How this affect the function of the cloud chamber?
  9. N

    Homemade cloud chamber not working

    I am a HS teacher working with a class of seniors on building a cloud bubble chamber. I have mostly used this article to guide us, but the students have also done research and have found many articles and videos as well. We are using a small plastic fish tank with felt super-glued to the...
  10. EEristavi

    B Condensation & Clouds: Understanding Water's Transformation

    I understand that condensation occurs when water (in gas form) looses energy and becomes liquid. What I don't understand why some surface is needed to form a liquid water
  11. Jr_Particle_Hunters

    B Beta particle penetration in our cloud chamber?

    Hello. We are elementary school kids who built a cloud chamber for our science project to test out the effectiveness of different shields against background radiation. We are not sure about something involving beta-particles. Can you help us please? We know low-energy beta particles cannot...
  12. M

    Charged Particle in Magnetic field calculation

    Homework Statement Basically having a problem when trying to theoretically calculate the mass of alpha particle in a charged field. r is the unknown radius of curvature m = mass of an alpha particle (6.646 *10^-27 kg) v = velocity of an alpha particle immediatly after decay (1.381 *10^7 m/s)...
  13. Gjmdp

    B How can I make an original cloud chamber?

    I'm trying to do a cloud chamber, but I think they are all too common and simple. It's just a box. I've thought about doing in a bottle, but it is just too weird, and is not original. Any other ideas or hints?
  14. doggonemess

    I My cloud chamber didn't make any tracks....

    Greetings all, I finally made a cloud chamber using an old aquarium and dry ice. Now, I got the expected result to happen, with a fine mist falling from the top like snow, but didn't see a single particle track. Any ideas why this might be? I have some guesses, but wanted someone with...
  15. D

    B No traces in cloud chamber (experimental physics)

    My setup: plastic box (~1l) with the cover painted black mat the bottom of the box covered with sponges saturated with ethyl alcohol (90%) to the limit (all over sponge capacity poured back to bottle) turned upside down and placed on ~0.5kg of dry ice. I can see a 'rain' of particles of...
  16. J

    B Cloud Chamber Experiment Help - Identifying Particles

    Yesterday I decided to carry out a cloud chamber experiment for a school assessment. I used "100%" isopropanol and around 2.5 kg of dry ice. After a wait of approximately 30 minutes, the particle tracks began to appear. I placed a weak source of Americium-241 sourced from a smoke detector (1...
  17. J

    High Voltage in a Cloud Chamber?

    Hello all! Firstly, thanks for reading this post! I am a high school student attempting to make a basic, dry ice cloud chamber. I have made several cloud chamber designs and I am about to start making it. However, before constructing the product I would appreciate some members to provide...
  18. B

    I Awesome cloud chamber track (video)

    I recorded an amazing cloud chamber track tonight. It came from the direction of the sun, seemed like the angle was off slightly though. I was at 1200ft above sea level and it was 6 pm. I will attach a picture of my setup and a video that is typical and then the video with the awesome track. It...
  19. Garlic

    Creating a Cloud Chamber for Deflecting Charged Particles

    Hello and thanks for reading Homework Statement I'm in high school. I chose my yearly project in physics, and wanted to make a cloud chamber. The subject is "deflection of charged particles in a magnetic field", so I must set a magnet alongside the cloud chamber. I've prepared for it, bought...
  20. E

    Building a cloud chamber for Science Fair

    Hello physicists, This is my first time on these forums, so I'm sorry if this isn't the right place. Feel free to move it if it isn't. I am building a small cloud chamber to detect particles resulting from the decay of pions in the atmosphere for a local science fair. I hope to see electron...
  21. W

    Why does positron not annihilate sooner in cloud chamber experiment

    Specifically in Carl D Anderson's cloud chamber experiment, the first experiment to prove the existence of the positron, a positron travels through all of these mediums: glass, charged liquid particles, water vapor, and lastly passes through a lead plate. If antimatter is suppose to anihilate...
  22. R

    Wilson Cloud Chamber: Observing Cosmic Particles

    A (Wilson) Cloud Chamber can show the tracks of ionized particles passing through it, typically emanating from outside the chamber and attributed to cosmic rays (more accurately described as cosmic particles). The chamber itself has one or more transparent surfaces, most commonly glass, through...
  23. C

    Have you tried the Cloud Chamber Experiment?

    Has anyone here ever done this experiment? A buddy of mine and I were thinking of setting this up but we had a few questions first. Is it better to use pure isopropyl or pure ethyl alcohol? I have read both from different sources. To conduct this more than once, do you just have to replace...
  24. Russ Edmonds

    My expansion cloud chamber movie

    Hi all, below is a video showing a compilation of many expansions of my Wilson cloud chamber. The tracks shown are mostly alpha and cosmic rays. The chamber uses a rubber bulb from a turkey baster as the expansion piston. The object in the chamber is a cork with a radium paint coated pin. I'm...
  25. B0b-A

    What has caused this panda-face in a cloud chamber ?

    This image was posted on another forum , maybe someone here may be able to shed some light on the origin of the grinning-panda ... The the cloud chamber does not have an applied magnetic field. The radioactive source is Americium 241 [ from smoke detector ? ]. The duration of the camera...
  26. rkum99

    Ionizing Radiation in a Cloud Chamber

    Hello! I've been doing a lot of research on cloud chambers recently, and I've come up with a quite a few questions on the behavior of certain types of ionizing radiation: 1) For a start, I assume that gamma-rays and X-rays will induce Compton scattering inside the cloud chamber...
  27. S

    Identifying trails in a Cloud Chamber

    I was thinking of making a cloud chamber and have looked at several videos on them. I noticed several different types of trails and was wondering if anyone can identify which particles they belong to i.e. alpha, beta, muon. I'm am particularly interested in Muons and I won't be using any...
  28. T

    Cloud Chamber Solvents: Identifying Mystery Liquid

    I recently observed a liquid pooling at the bottom of my cloud chamber. It was purple in color and rather odd. It was certainly flammable, which leads me to believe that it was a result of solventing between the supersaturated alcohol and the canned air used for my chamber...
  29. T

    Diffusion Cloud chamber issues

    I was working on my cloud chamber today, and I ran into two problems: A) It's not working :) To be more specific, I used compressed air to get the bottom extremely cold. The structure itself is a small plastic throw away cup, with a sponge with 91% alcohol stuck to the top. The bottom (the open...
  30. F

    Cloud Chamber Using Peltier Coolers

    Hello All! Does anyone have a good design for a Cloud Chamber using Peltier Coolers? I'm wanting to build a chamber that will be able to pick up cosmic rays/background radiation, that will be a bit more professional than a Tupperware container sitting on dry ice. Does anyone have a good design...
  31. C

    Preventing recombination in a diffusion cloud chamber?

    Hello all, I built an expansion cloud chamber and noted that an electrostatic field was needed to see the ionizing radiation. I know this is needed to prevent recombination of the ions and their free electrons. However, I built a diffusion cloud chamber a while ago that called for no electric...
  32. T

    Cloud Chamber Building for 9th Grader: Dry Ice vs. Peltier Cooler

    Something a recent obsession has taken me into, I'm attempting to build a cloud chamber, for fun and to observe some particles in action. As a 9th grader, I'm somewhat limited in supplies. Thus, I'm wondering, if I built a cloud chamber, would it be better to use dry ice, or use a peltier cooler...
  33. C

    Physics of a Cloud Chamber: Neutrons, Kinetic Energy, and Ionization

    Why can't I have a neutral particle come into a cloud chamber and leave a track? I was reading about cloud chambers and it says when the charged particle comes in it ionizes the vapor in the chamber. But why couldn't a neutron come in and ionize the particles in the chamber with its kinetic...
  34. S

    Amount of isopropyl in a given cloud chamber

    EDIT: The title of thread is misleading. Instead it should say: "Aquarium cloud chamber - realistic?" Hello, I am currently constructing a cloud chamber which is going to be using a w% > 90 % solution of isopropyl alcohol as the condensation chemical. I am using a typical home aquarium with...
  35. L

    Optimizing Sensitivity in a DIY Cloud Chamber: How Much High Voltage is Needed?

    I've built a simple cloud chamber using a peltier cooling element and I'm able to see some tracks which is really exciting. But now I've seen in many places that you can apply a high voltage between the floor and a ring at the top of the chamber to further improve sensitivity, and also to force...
  36. C

    Charged particle in a cloud chamber?

    Homework Statement when a charged particle enters a magnetic field in a cloud chamber, why does it move in a circular path instead of straight line? I have no idea why. please help Homework Equations The Attempt at a Solution it has something to do with the r changing? as I said...
  37. LarryS

    Uncertainty Principle in Wilson Cloud Chamber Measurements

    An alpha-particle produced by radioactive decay leaves a visible continuous track in a Wilson Cloud Chamber. As it collides with and ionizes the molecules of the vapor, its position is constantly being “measured” by the vapor molecules. If a magnetic field is present, its track will be curved...
  38. S

    Need help making a cloud chamber

    OK I know many people here are familiar with cloud chambers particularly those of you who are teaching. I have never built one but I want to go all out on my first attempt. I have seen plenty of instructions from researching through google and I was wondering if you guys have any additional tips...
  39. Q

    Building a Cloud Chamber: Tips and Tricks

    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/~adf4/cloud.html" Has anyone tried this? It looks really cool, and I am thinking about giving it a shot, but I'd like to know how easy it is to get it working, or if there are any other things I should know. One thing I am concerned about is the directions say...
  40. D

    How Does an Electron Move in a Magnetic Field Within a Cloud Chamber?

    An electron enters a cloud chamber which has a magnetic field B but the path of the electron is not perpendicular to the magnetic field. I understand that the electron path will describe a spiral. Does the v in the equation F = q(v x B) refer to the component of the electron's velocity which is...
  41. H

    Exploring High-Energy Cosmic Rays: The Potential of an Orbiting Cloud Chamber

    I've read that cosmic rays are far higher energy than those generated in manmade particle accelerators. Would it be worthwhile to build an orbiting cloud chamber to collect cosmic rays before they impact the Earth's atmosphere? Or would the collision rate be too low to provide statistically...
  42. B

    Cloud Chamber Demonstration

    Hi, I'm attempting to make a condensation cloud chamber to display alpha and beta particle tracks to a class of school kids as part of my placement. I get how it all works but I'm having real trouble with two things... 1) Finding a source of high purity alcohol. 2) Getting hold of...
  43. W

    What could be causing my cloud chamber experiment to fail?

    I'm conducting a cloud chamber experiment using: Jar (black lid) Felt(black) Methylated Spirits (96% ethanol) Water Cobalt 60 Dry Ice Concentration about 50-50 with the spirits and water then soaked the felt. Using a projector which produces heat to main a temperature gradient. So far...
  44. A

    In what ways can a cloud chamber be built without relying on dry ice?

    I want to build a cloud chamber. I have tried one approach for which I found directions online. Unfortunately it didn't work out for me. In short, I used an empty pickle jar with felt glued into the bottom of the jar. I poured in 91% Isopropyl alcohol to saturate the felt. I screwed the...
  45. E

    Exploring Wavefunctions in Cloud Chamber Experiments

    On a recent thread about cloud chambers, a question popped into my head. My knowledge of cloud chambers is that one can see the "path" of certain elementary particles as they pass through the chamber. If, say, we had an electron passing through the chamber, do we have to assume that the...
  46. G

    Wilson Cloud Chamber: Radiation Detection & Build Tips

    Hello everyone, in the 1910's Wilson build the very first cloud chamber based on watervapour and adiabatic decompression. With this device you can see radiation from radioactive materials and cosmic rays. For a description see...
  47. S

    Watch a Wilson Cloud Chamber Video for Homework

    Does anybody know where I would be able to view a video of a wilson cloud chamber being used? I need to view one for homework. cheers
  48. C

    How can I easily build a cloud chamber for a physics project?

    So I need to build a cloud chamber for a physics project and I have no idea where to start. I need it to be simple but not too simple so that it actually looked like I put some effort into it. Any help would be greatly greatly appreciated. I am very very desperate.
  49. A

    Build Your Own Cloud Chamber for Particle Detection

    [?] I'm thinking of building a simple cloud chamber in order to detect small particles such as muons, neutrinos, and the like. I have read some handbooks but I would be grateful if someone could lend me a hand by providing some instructions. I only have three months to prepare this so I need the...