2023 Halloween Hackfest: Converted Proton Pack Lights Up The Night

It’s really quite unfortunate that Hackaday/Supplyframe employees and their families are not allowed to place in the 2023 Halloween Hackfest, because our own [Tom Nardi] has thrown down a costume gauntlet with his kids’ proton pack conversion.

Starting with an inert off-the-shelf toy from 2021, [Tom] set out to make the thing more awesome in every way possible. For one thing, it’s blue, and outside of the short-lived animated series The Real Ghostbusters, who ever heard of a blue proton pack? So one major change was to paint it matte black and age it with the old silver rub ‘n buff technique. And of course, add all the necessary stickers.

[Tom] added plenty of blinkenlights, all running off of an Arduino Nano clone and a pair of 18650s. He got lucky with the whole power cell thing, because an 8 x 5050 RGB LED stick fits there perfectly and looks great behind a PETG diffusing lens. He also drilled out and lit up the cyclotron, because what’s a proton pack without that? There’s even a 7-segment LED voltmeter so Dad can check the power level throughout the night.

Finally, he had to do a bit of engineering to make the thing actually wearable by his daughter. A frame made of square aluminium tubing adds strength, and a new pair of padded straps make it comfortable. Be sure to check it out in action after the break.

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Uranium-241 Isotope Created And Examined Via Multinucleon Transfer Reactions And Mass Spectrometry

A recent paper (PDF) in Physical Review Letters by T. Niwase and colleagues covers a fascinating new way to both create and effectively examine isotopes by employing a cyclotron and a mass spectrograph. In the paper, they describe the process of multinucleon transfer (MNT) and analysis at the recently commissioned KEK Isotope Separation System (KISS), located at the RIKEN Nishina Center in Japan.

Sketch of the KISS experimental setup. The blue- and yellow-colored areas are filled with Ar and He gases, respectively. Differential pumping systems are located after the doughnut-shaped gas cell as well as before and after the GCCB. (Credit: Niwase et al., 2023)
Sketch of the KISS experimental setup. The blue- and
yellow-colored areas are filled with Ar and He gases, respectively. Differential pumping systems are located after the doughnut-shaped gas cell as well as before and after the GCCB. (Credit: Niwase et al., 2023)

The basic process which involves the RIKEN Ring Cyclotron, which was loaded for this particular experiment with Uranium-238 isotope. Over the course of four days, 238U particles impinged on a 198Pt target, after which the resulting projectile-like fragments (PLF) were led through the separation system (see sketch). This prepared the thus created ions to be injected into the multi-reflection time-of-flight mass spectrograph (MRTOF MS), which is a newly installed and highly refined mass spectrograph which was also recently installed at the facility.

Using this method, the researchers were able to establish that during the MNT process in the cyclotron, the transfer of nucleons from the collisions had resulted in the production of 241U as well as 242U. Although the former had not previously been produced in an experimental setting, the mass of 242U had not been accurately determined. During this experiment, the two uranium as well as neptunium and other isotopes were led through the MRTOF MS instrument, allowing for the accurate measurement of the characteristics of each isotope.

The relevance of producing new artificial isotopes of uranium lies not so much in the production of these, but rather in how producing these atoms allows us to experimentally confirm theoretical predictions and extrapolations from previous data. This may one day lead us to amazing discoveries such as the famously predicted island of stability, with superheavy, stable elements with as of yet unknown properties.

Even if such astounding discoveries are not in the future for theoretical particle physics, merely having another great tool like MNT to ease the burden of experimental verification would seem to be more than worth it.

Hand-Cranked Cyclotron

Okay, not actually a cyclotron… but this ball cyclotron is a good model for what a cyclotron does and the concepts behind it feel kooky and magical. A pair of Ping Pong balls scream around a glass bowl thanks the repulsive forces of static electricity.

It’s no surprise that this comes from Rimstar, a source we’ve grown to equate with enthralling home lab experiments like the Ion Wind powered Star Trek Enterprise. Those following closely will know that most of [Steven Dufresne’s] experiments involve high voltage and this one is no different. The same Wimshurst Machine he used in the Tea Laser demo is brought in again for this one.

A glass bowl is used for its shape and properties as an insulator. A set of electrodes are added in the form of aluminum strips. These are given opposite charges using the Wimshurst machine. Ping Pong balls coated in conductive paint are light enough to be moved by the static fields, and a good crank gets them travelling in a very fast circuit around the bowl.

When you move a crank the thought of being connected to something with a chain pops into your mind. This feels very much the same, but there is no intuitive connection between the movement of the balls and your hand on the crank. Anyone need a prop for their Halloween party?

If you don’t want to buy or build a Wimshurst machine you can use a Van De Graaff generator. Can anyone suggest other HV sources that would work well here?

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