This paper shows how to run some experiments on radioactivity in a student laboratory, aiming to investigate the Poisson distribution of decays and the use of chi-squared test. Avoiding specific problems of safety control, which is necessary when radioactive sources are used, we are proposing measurements of the natural background and emission of potassium chloride. The detector is a Geiger-MÃ¼ller tube. In the case the budget for laboratory and its equipment is limited, the use of a virtual alternative is proposed. Some virtual experiments are discussed too.
Laboratory, Physics Class, Radioactivity, Poisson Distribution
- All potassium has a naturally-occurring radioactive isotope, K-40, which is a primordial isotope formed through the stellar nuclear processes. For what concerns the use of potassium chloride, it is an approved food additive, E508, see the Student Safety Sheets, CLEAPSS, 2013, www.cleapss.org.uk
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- One of the simulated radioactive materials is Mn54. Naturally occurring manganese (Mn) is composed of one stable isotope, Mn55, and 18 radioisotopes. They have been characterized with the most stable being Mn53 with a half-life of 3.7 million years. Mn54 with a half-life of 312.3 days. The other simulated material is Ba137m. Naturally occurring barium (Ba) is a mix of six stable isotopes and one very long-lived radioactive primordial isotope, Ba130, recently identified as being unstable by geochemical means, from analysis of the presence of its daughter Xenon-130 in rocks. There are a total of twenty-two barium isotopes known, but most of these are highly radioactive with half-lives ranging from several milliseconds to several minutes. Ba137m has a half-life of 2.55 minutes. It is obtained from the decay of Caesium137 (Cs137), which is a radioactive isotope of Caesium, formed mainly as a fission product by nuclear fission. The half-life of CS137 is of about 30.1 years. Ba-137m is responsible for gamma-ray emission. The photon energy of Ba-137m is 662 keV. These photons can be useful in food irradiation and in radiotherapy
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