Tag Archives: atom

Collecting Uranium

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!!!The most important aspects of safety!!!

Key things to reduce exposure:
1. Shielding
2. Time (of exposure)
3. Distance

Key things to keep safe:
1. Minimize exposure if possible.
2. Always wash hands and wear gloves.
3. Never allow inhalation or ingestion of dust from samples.
4. Keep samples away from children (anyone, actually) and only bring
5. Never store samples under your bed (not sure why they do, but apparently people do this lol)

Good books:
Introduction to Radioactive Minerals – Robert Lauf

Places to buy uranium:

(eBay and Amazon have some too, but be careful!)

Places to get equipment:


Places to get a Geiger counter (including recommended models):

Model 3 + 44-9 Pancake Probe – Ludlums.com
Inspector – GeigerCounters.com
PRM9000 – GeigerCounters.com
CDV700 – VArious places (careful of bad units… may need repair and claibration)

A Demonstration of Nuclear Radiation

Filed under Radiation, Science
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A quick demonstration of nuclear radiation. Just for fun and maybe even a little education. =)

Polonium 210 Gamma – Found?

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A week or two ago I set out to detect the infamous Polonium 210 gamma ray at 803.1 keV using a NaI(Tl) scintillation detector and a mere 3.7 kBq of Po210. This isn’t too hard, or so I have been told, to do with a HPGe or using my equipment and a significantly larger activity of Polonium. The problem is that only a few gammas will be emitted, only some will actually reach the detector, and of those only a tiny fraction will be detected! But… Who am I to listen? Lol I think that I found the gamma and it stands out in the spectrum, but I thought I would go a little further. This is not a formal paper (note my informal tone). I just thought that I would post a little more than a simple message.

Polonium 210 Gammas

Polonium 210 Gammas

My Environment

I have a temperature stabilized environment with a average temperature fluctuation of 0.8 c. from the mean over a period of six hours. The detector was allowed a full day to warm up and become stable. Calibration was performed several times and with several sources, including Co60 and Cs137. Redundant calibrations were performed and tested against each other to detect any changes.

The Test

A new (less than seven days old) small circular plastic disk containing approximately (+/- 20%) 3.7 kBq of Po210 was placed directly in front of the detection crystal at a distance of 1 cm. Between the source and the crystal, a thin Pyrex glass layer was placed. The test was allowed to run for six hours and then repeated without the Po 210 source to account for background. The background was removed from the sample spectrum to produce the results.

My Findings

A scientific result which can credibly called “true”, insomuch as any result is true”, requires at least five standard deviations from the mean of a set of data to rule out likely error. Given the very low amount of data logged and the generally entropic nature of the testing setup, such an outcome is unlikely. As a result, a positive declaration of the detection of Po210 gammas using the experiment as performed is unlikely.

A set of 60 data points was taken before and after background removal. These data sets were treated as a population set from which a simple population standard deviation was calculated, for both before and after background removal. Based upon calibration of the unit, the channel numberd 832 was the most likely channel to detect the gamma in. For both the origional data and the data with background removed, the channel, 832, displayed a clearly greater than other channels near it and for the set. For the raw data, channel 832 was 3.3636861676 deviations from the mean and with the background removed, the same channel was 3.2797495046 deviations from the mean. The variance between the data with and without background was 2.56%.

Sample Gross counts
Channel     Count          Sigmas
828          17          -0.6757272749
829          16          -0.1812926775
830          21          -0.6757272749
831          28          0.8075765174
832          39          3.2797495046
833          19          -0.1812926775
834          25          0.0659246212
835          19          -0.6757272749
836          27          1.7964457123
Sample – Background
Channel          Count          Sigmas
828          0          -0.7820334787
829          2          -0.9704752808
830          0          -0.0282662703
831          6          1.2908263444
832          16          3.3636861676
833          2          -0.4051498745
834          3          0.7255009381
835          0          -0.4051498745
836          10          1.1023845423

Nuclear Alchemy: The Transmutation of one Element into Another

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Nuclear Alchemy: The Transmutation of one Element into Another

I bombard aluminum 27 (13 protons and 14 neutrons), the stable type we have all come to know and love, with energetic alpha particles (two protons and two neutrons) at an energy of 5.3042 MeV! (MeV means Millions of Electron Volts). Most of the alpha particles would have bounced off of the aluminum without joining… but some would. Those lucky alpha particles bonded with the nucleus of the aluminum 27 to produce a new element: phosphorus 30! (15 protons and 15 neutrons). The reaction emits one spare neutron with way too much energy! =(

The phosphorus 30 has a short half-life of a mere 2.49 minutes, decaying into stable silicon 30 (14 protons and 16 neutrons) via beta+ decay (a positron). The position emitted is an Anti-Electon! That’s right, anti-matter. The quick little positron has an average energy of about 1438 keV (a max of 3203.3!!!). The position lasts only a short time before slamming into a normal electron and annihilating with an energy of 1022 keV, expressed as two gamma rays, each with 511 keV of energy. It is these emissions which I detect, using gamma spectroscopy. A Geiger counter would never be able to give me these results.

Al-27 + He-4 → P-30 + N
(e+) + e → y

I had calculated the energy of the reaction many times, but each calculation was a little wrong. I asked a very smart physicist for some help and he gave me a formula for figuring it out, but my math and his still didn’t add up…

Here is what I used for my determination:
I took the mass of an atom of P-30
(4.97802×10^-26 kg), call it M, and the mass of a single Neutron (1.67493×10^-27 kg), call it N, and the energy of the alpha particle which slammed into the aluminum (which was not at rest, but probably not doing too much whilst in its lattice, 5304.2 keV = 8.498×10^-13 joules, call it E. Also, let Em = momentum of P-30 atom after ejection of neutron, En momentum of neutron after being ejected: Em = (N/(M+N))E =(1.67493×10^-27 kg / (4.97802×10^-26 kg+1.67493×10^-27 kg)) 8.498×10^-13 j = 2.76620721*10^-14 joules = 172.6531 keV En = (M/(M+N))E = (4.97802×10^-26 kg /(4.97802×10^-26 kg+1.67493×10^-27 kg)^-1) 8.498×10^-13 j =8.22137928×10^-13 joules = 5.131382 meV

But… his numbers didn’t match (he thought the neutron would be 2.574 MeV and the phosphorus 30 would be 0.086 Mev.

Either way… OMG! That’s too much neutron flux for me in my tiny home lab. =)

Autunite Uranium Spectrum!

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Autunite - Uranium

Autunite is a very beautiful, many might say the most beautiful, uranium-bearing mineral. Autunite contains many amazing isotopes, including a few transuranic elements! I received a sample of the beautiful and deadly mineral from a friend at the cost of an analysis using my gamma spectrometer.

I have finally completed a calibration analysis of my spectrometer, to include a 17 KeV to 2MeV window with a +/- 3KeV tolerance. These are favorable conditions for analysis of uranium and uranium daughters.

Today, I tested my new Autunite sample in my gamma spectrometer to see what I might find within it’s calcium-encrusted innards. The primary natural uranium products are there, as expect: Lead 214 and Bismuth 214 being heavy gamma emitters, lead the way with large spikes at 351.92 KeV, 295 KeV, and 609.31KeV, 1764.49 KeV, respectively. I detected a tiny bit of Radium 226, Uranium 235, and Uranium 238.