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Gamma Ray Microscope

  1. Aug 25, 2012 #1
    I was in my AP Physics class discussing wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum and I came up with the idea to attempt a gamma ray microscope. Of course this is extremely dangerous, so I will have to be cautious (and use a lot of lead). Is there a way to produce gamma rays? I know they cannot be manipulated with electromagnetic fields, so that would be a problem. Would it be possible to direct them and focus them, then have them go into a sort of detector? Or will the lack of charge make that impossible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2012 #2
    Ignoring the potential danger involved (Gamma Rays are ionizing radiation), in general Gamma Rays cannot be focused (and even x-rays need to be focused cleverly). I remember reading that some scientists had recently discovered a way to focus gamma rays (which could be monumental for gamma ray astronomy), but I suspect that is far out of the range of practicality for you.
  4. Aug 25, 2012 #3
    Sorry but whatever your idea is, it almost certainly won't work, and if you're posting this here you definitely don't have the qualification or facility to handle dangerous particles like gamma rays.

    Just stick to pendulums and springs and circuit experiments for now, if you pursue physics later on you'll get a chance to play with some more exciting things.
  5. Aug 25, 2012 #4


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    The ability to safely create and work with gamma rays is FAR beyond your capability. This requires very expensive machines, lots of radiation shielding, and knowledge that you simply don't possess. Trust us, it will not work.
  6. Aug 25, 2012 #5


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    DLHill, I agree with the advice given you by Drakkith, dipole, and Vorde above: It would be dangerous, expensive, and totally out of the question for you to do gamma ray experiments yourself.

    This should not stop you from learning about the process, however. I did a quick Google search using the terms "gamma ray telescopes" and found many sites that describe how they function. Seems to me a telescope is so similar to a microscope that you could learn a great deal. Try it.
    For example,
    "Silicon 'prism' bends gamma rays"

  7. Aug 26, 2012 #6


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    While it is possible to bend/deflect gamma rays for telescopes, I do not think that a microscope can give anything interesting:
    - the interaction between gamma rays and matter is nearly always hard, which means you modify (or destroy) the object you want to observe
    - to observe things at the length scale of gamma rays (nuclear scale), you need lenses with a precision of a similar scale. There is no material which is homogeneous at subatomic scales.
    - electron microscopes can resolve individual atoms
  8. Aug 26, 2012 #7
    Thank you for your input everybody. I will take your advice. I'll save this for another day.
    Best of luck,
  9. Aug 27, 2012 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    A gamma-ray microscope is pointless, photons of that energy won't interact with the sample. Gamma ray *telescopes*, OTOH, are very useful.
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