A Stacked Peltier Cloud Chamber Build

Subatomic particles are remarkably difficult to see, but they can be made visible with the right techniques. Building a cloud chamber with dry ice is a common way to achieve this, but coming by the material can be difficult. [The Thought Emporium] wanted a more accessible build, and went for a Peltier-based design instead (Youtube link, embedded below).

By stacking several Peltier coolers in a cascade, it’s possible to increase the temperature differential generated. In this design, the copper plate of the chamber is cooled down to -33 degrees Fahrenheit (-36.11 Celcius), more than cold enough for the experiment to work. Alcohol is added to the glass chamber, and when it reaches the cold plate, it creates a super-saturated vapor. When disturbed by charged particles zipping out of a radioactive source, the vapor condenses, leaving a visible trail.

Cloud chambers are a popular experiment to try at home. It’s a great science fair project, and one that can be easily constructed with old computer parts and a couple of cheap modules from eBay. Just be careful when experimenting with radioactive sources. Video after the break.

22 thoughts on “A Stacked Peltier Cloud Chamber Build

      1. Dunno about US but in EU every somke alarm containing radioactive material has unique serial number and must be registered with country’s atomic agency. Disposal of such smoke alarms is permitted only when govt is notified with list of alarms and theirs serial numbers and when done by a state-licensed company.

        Similar thing for other radioactive stuff like red TIG electrodes but in this case shop just photocopies your ID at time of purchase.
        I agree, it’s a bit cumbersome but it’s okay if it helps prevent terrorism.

        1. i am sure a terrorist attack done with smoke detectors and thoriated welding electrodes will have lethal consequences….
          maybe they could even add old watches with radium dials and vaseline glass to their arsenal. where would we be without central governments and their supporters

    1. Ridiculous. This is obviously from a subclass of the tedious safety kiddies who too often post comments here.

      You can order, for example, uranium samples on eBay that come in packages clearly marked “radioactive uranium” and are shipped with no problems 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘴𝘰𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 by USPS. Source: I’ve done it (for my minerals collection).

    1. I respectfully disagree. He talks about Patreon for 15 seconds at the end of the video, when almost everyone already watched everything and already know if the video is good or bad. I don’t like videos where the entire donation thing takes the first minute of the video, and I have to skip forward just to miss a portion of the video and skip back to get to the “donation time” section again.

      And while it’s not a step by step a-la Instructables, it’s well documented enough to anyone replicate, even the part numbers of the Peltier coolers are shown. He even tells where to safely(ish) get radioactive samples.

      And that Canadian drawing is hilarious!

  1. I remember longing to build one of these myself as a kid. I never got to see a vacuum chamber in my HS or college physics courses EVER — too damn cheap. All the money went to either fine arts or graduate studies (or sports). Pictures are good enough, right

  2. My grandson built a cloud chamber when he was 9.
    And he videoed the particles shooting through the cloud.
    He’s 10 now, and moving on to bigger and better projects.
    His YouTube is “Nik Talks”

  3. Fyi, I tried to build a cloud chamber using cheap Chinese peltiers (120W element for $15 or so, and a second 60W for another $10). By themselves, stacked in any conceivable power ratio—couldn’t get the darn thing anywhere near -40C. Might have been too cheapo Peltiers, but very disappointing nonetheless.

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