Radiant News – Why experiments on radioactivity are important for students
No one writes about it when the famous sack of rice falls over in China. Now, in Australia, a tiny 6 x 8 mm capsule fell off a truck on a 1400 km long stretch, and the whole world reported on the huge search operation. Why all the fuss and what does this have to do with radioactivity? We explain it to you in this post and show why the topic should also be illuminated in a practical way in class.
What is radioactivity?
Radioactivity is a natural or artificial process in which unstable atomic nuclei spontaneously emit energy in the form of particles or electromagnetic radiation to transition into a more stable state. This radioactive radiation is generated, for example, for power generation in nuclear power plants, but also occurs in limited amounts in nature.
This small capsule, which is used in mining instruments, contains highly radioactive cesium-137. This cesium isotope emits as much radiation within a radius of one meter as ten X-ray treatments per hour. It is difficult to imagine what this really means for the organism. Therefore, experts warn of skin damage up to burns and, in the worst case, even of the life-threatening and incurable radiation sickness if one gets too close to the capsule.
Regulations limit experimental teaching
Such incidents repeatedly remind us of the invisible danger posed by radioactive materials. It is all the more important that future generations develop an understanding of the opportunities and dangers of radioactive energy. However, it is precisely in chemistry and physics classes that there are rarely tangible experiments on this topic, as safety regulations have become increasingly stringent and bureaucratic hurdles have grown over the decades. The procurement and handling of radioactive substances must be organised in accordance with the constantly changing Radiation Protection Ordinance, the KMK guidelines for safety in teaching (RISU), and other state regulations. The spectrum of regulations ranges from structural requirements in specialised rooms to the appointment of radiation protection commissioner, regular training sessions, leak tests, and a variety of approvals and inventory reports. Not all schools see the possibility of making such a great effort for a few lessons on radioactivity per school year. This not only wastes valuable learning opportunities but is also completely unnecessary.
Experiments on radioactivity without the need for authorisation
We at MEKRUPHY GmbH have the perfect solution to this problem. With our experimentation set RADIOACTIVITY, students in chemistry and physics classes can safely perform exciting experiments to measure alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. All of our radioactive material samples are well below the exemption limit and are packaged to be touch-safe, making them approved for use in student experiments in middle and high schools. In addition, there is no need for elaborate registration and storage or for chemistry teachers to be designated as radiation protection commissioners.
What is an End-Window Counting Tube?
An end-window counting tube is a nuclear counting device used to measure the intensity of particles or radiation. It is a special type of Geiger-Müller tube, where the end of the tube, called the window, is opened for measuring the radiation intensity. This allows for a very accurate measurement of radiation intensity, as the radiation does not have to pass through the entire body of the counting tube to be measured.
Wide range of applications in experimental teaching
Our radioactivity experiment kit enables 12 different student experiments:
- Background radiation and background count
- Statistical scattering
- Radioactive substances
- The inverse square law
- Absorption 1
- Absorption 2
- Radiation characteristics
- Deflection in a magnetic field
- Radioactivity in tap water
- Radioactivity in the air
- Equivalent dose
All of these experiments can be performed using samples from everyday life that are well below the exemption levels. To make the radiation detectable, our experiment set includes an end-window Geiger-Müller tube with extremely high detection sensitivity as its centerpiece. The highly sensitive radiation detector is equipped with an LED display, an audible signal generator, and a 9V block battery. This not only allows for flexibility in the classroom, but also for use on field trips in nature. Student experiments on radioactivity have never been easier than with the RADIOACTIVITY experiment set from MEKRUPHY.