Alpha Radiation Shielding by Common Household Materials

Friday, 13 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Emma E. Schwartzman, Pittsburgh, PA
For my project, I and seeking to understand whether common household materials could act as effective alpha particle radiation shields. I hypothesize that shielding efficacy will vary directly with material density. In order to “visualize” the alpha particles, I will make and use a cloud (Wilson) chamber, which maintains a supersaturated vapor of isopropyl alcohol. Alpha particles, which travel through the vapor, leave an ionic “wake,” which causes the vapor to condense – a process visible to the naked eye. I will use this chamber to semi-quantitatively assay the data. The alpha particle emitter being used in this experiment is 210Pb, which decays to 206Hg during the process. The materials being tested include commercial aluminum foil, tissue paper, cardboard, wax paper, and cotton cloth. I will wrap the alpha emitter in each of the materials and complete a minute-long trial 10 times with each material. The results will be graphed, and my results will come from statistic analysis of these graphs.