S'Cool LAB Experiments

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Below you will find short descriptions of the experiments which are currently available in S’Cool LAB. You will find information about what students should already know before taking part in this experiment, what they will learn in S’Cool LAB, and how this knowledge is related to particle physics experiments at CERN. 

Cloud Chamber - Build and Observe a Particle Detector

Cloud Chamber

Description:  Students build their own particle detector using dry ice and isopropanol to make cosmic particles and natural radiation visible. Students study the properties of the different tracks and discuss their observations. 

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • different types of particles, such as proton, neutron, electron, photon, helium nucleus ("alpha particle"),  (muon, positron, neutrino)
  • natural radiation (alpha, beta, gamma) and the different states of matter
  • ionisation and condensation (optional)

What students will learn: 

  • how a cloud chamber works and what kind of particles can be detected in a cloud chamber
  • where these particles come from

 

Link to CERN physics: The cloud chamber was used to discover the positron (Nobel Prize 1932) and the muon (Nobel Prize 1936). Today, cloud chambers are only used in education. However, the CLOUD experiment at CERN (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) still uses a special cloud chamber to study the possible link between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation. 

 

Availability:

Minimum age: 14. For Open Cloud Chamber Workshops, participants as young as 12 are welome as long as they are each accompanied by an adult.

Age recommendation: 16 and above

X-Rays - Medical Applications and Pixel Detectors

X-Ray unit

Description: Students operate an X-ray machine (35 keV) and study the absorption of X-rays in matter using a fluorescent screen and a pixel detector. 

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • the properties of photons, especially the link between different photon energies and the electromagnetic spectrum
  • how X-rays machines work, Bremsstrahlung (optional)
  • semiconductor detectors (pixel detectors) and energy levels of electrons in atoms (optional)

What students will learn

  • how photons are absorbed in different materials
  • how radiographs are taken

 

Link to CERN physics: Pixel detectors are used in the tracking systems of  LHC experiments, such as ATLAS. They can precisely measure the track of an electrically charged particle. Within the Medipix collaboration at CERN, several applications of this technology have been studied, for example, in medical imaging.

 

Availability: Can be included in the S'Cool LAB Days at CERN itinerary.

Minimum age: 16

Recommended age: 16-19 

Electron Tube - The Basics of Particle Acceleration

Electron Tube

Description: Students operate an electron beam (300 eV) and study electrons in magnetic fields.

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • the properties of electrons and energy levels of electrons in atoms
  • electric and magnetic fields, e.g. the shape of the magnetic field of a bar magnet and of a simple coil 
  • the deflection of electrically charged particles in magnetic fields due to the Lorentz force
  • how to calculate the speed of electrons when they are accelerated by an electric field (optional)

What students will learn:

  • how to make and control a beam of electrons 
  • how electrons behave in electric and magnetic fields

 

Link to CERN physics: In the LHC, protons gain kinetic energy when passing through high electric fields (RF cavities). To keep the protons on a circular track, 1232 special supercoducting electromagnets are installed. The high magnetic field of the dipole magnets causes the deflection of these electrically charged particles due to the Lorentz force.

 

Availability: Can be included in the S'Cool LAB Days at CERN itinerary.

Minimum age: 16

Recommended age: 16-19

Quadrupole Ion Trap - How to Trap Particles

Particle Trap

Description: Students manipulate a quadrupole ion trap (Paul trap) and study the behaviour or lycopodium spores in an electric quadrupole field. 

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • electric fields, especially about the visualisation of electric field lines e.g. between two electrically charged spheres 
  • how a transformer works, AC voltage
  • how to measure voltages with a multimeter
  • what antiparticles are and why CERN's antimatter factory is studying anti-hydrogen atoms (optional)

What students will learn: 

  • how electrically charged particle can be trapped using electric fields
  • why particle traps are used in CERN's antimatter factory

Link to CERN physics:  Antiparticles are produced in particle collisions in the LHC all the time. However, it is very difficult to study antimatter (stable particle systems made of antiparticles such as anti-hydrogen atoms). In CERN's antimatter factory, several experiments try to trap antimatter using particle traps, and study its properties to solve the matter-antimatter asymmetry problem. GBAR, for example, wants to study the effect of gravity on anti-hydrogen atoms.

 

Availability: Can be included in the S'Cool LAB Days at CERN itinerary.

Minimum age: 16

Recommended age: 17-19

 

Positron-Emission-Tomography (PET) - Medical Applications

Description: Students calibrate and use scintillation detectors to understand the basic principles of Positron-Emission-Tomography (PET) and locate a positron source (Na-22).

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • positrons, annihilation, E=mc2, rest mass of electrons / positrons E=511 keV, positron emitters ("beta-plus decay")
  • energy conservation, momentum conservation
  • scintillators and photomultipliers (optional)
  • energy spectra of radioactive sources, Compton scattering (optional)

What students will learn: 

  • how to calibrate scintillation detectors and how to interpret the energy spectrum of a radioactive source 
  • what coincidence measurements are and how they are used in PET

Link to CERN physics: CERN's expertise focuses on particle accelerators, detectors and computing. However, many important diagnostic and therapeutic techniques have been developed from fundamental research results. One example of medical applications of particle physics is Positron-Emission-Tomography. 

 

Availability: Can be included in the S'Cool LAB Days at CERN itinerary.

Minimum age: 17

Recommended age: 17-19 

Safety note: Due to the use of radioactive sources (74 kBq Na-22), pregnant women and students younger than 16 are not allowed to take part in this experiment.

Superconductivity - Resistance is Futile

Superconductivity

Description: Students measure the electrical resistance of a normal conductor and a high-temperature superconductor (Bi-2223). They study the Meissner-Ochsenfeld-Effect and the Flux-Pinning-Effect.

Before taking part in this experiment, students should already know about

  • electrical resistance in normal conductors and superconductors (qualitatively)
  • magnetic fields, ferromagnets, diamagnets, electromagnetic induction and eddy currents
  • Cooper pairs (optional)

What students will learn: 

  • how to distinguish electrical resistance - temperature curves of different materials
  • similarities and differences between Meissner-Ochsenfeld-Effect and the Flux-Pinning-Effect
  • how to build a magnetic track for a levitating superconductor

Link to CERN physics: The LHC(link is external) uses several thousand special superconducting electromagnets. Superconductive materials such as NbTi allow extremely high currents in these electromagnets, generating a magnetic field of several Tesla. CERN is also testing new material to build even stronger superconducting electromagnets for the next generation of particle accelerators.

 

Availability: Can be included in the S'Cool LAB Days at CERN itinerary.

Minimum age: 17

Recommended age: 17-19 

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