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Determine the penetrating power and the range in air of the three radioactive emissions (Plutonium 239 for alpha, Strontium 90 for beta and Cobalt 60 for gamma).

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Introduction

Aim

To determine the penetrating power and the range in air of the three radioactive emissions (Plutonium 239 for alpha, Strontium 90 for beta and Cobalt 60 for gamma).

Method 1

The apparatus were set up as in the diagram below to measure the range in air up to 50 cm for each source.

Before the experiment took place the background radiation was measured as 80 counts in 5 minutes therefore 16 counts per minute.  Experimental precautions were:

The radioactive source is aligned with a ruler to the GM tube as accurately as possible so that the maximum radiation is measured

A set square was used to measure the exact point at which the source and tube were placed

The counter was reset each time so the counter read zero so this would reduce zero error in the experiment and the hold button was pressed to freeze the measurement

Thirty seconds were left between the start of the count and the recording so the reading would be less instantaneous and more reliable

...read more.

Middle

Distance (cm)

Corrected counts per 30secs.

Counts per 30secs. (original data)

5

526

534

10

183

191

15

99

107

20

41

49

25

37

45

30

30

38

35

19

27

40

25

33

45

19

27

50

12

20

Results 2

Alpha - paper

Material

Corrected counts per 30secs.

Counts per 30secs. (original data)

None

152

160

Tissue paper

8

16

Paper

0

8

Card

4

12

Beta - aluminium

Thickness (mm)

...read more.

Conclusion

Evaluation

The results were quite accurate as they corresponded with evidence in the AS/A2 Physics (Mee, Cundell, Arnold and Brown) and the Nelson Modular Science (Mark Elise and Chris Honey) books.   However some of the graphs required lines of best fit to distinguish a trend.  The results were precise as they followed a nearly uniform pattern of an exponential graph.

However in the graph for gamma ‘s range in air the smaller count rates were not steady and the increased further away from the source for one reading but then decreased again.  This could be due to the fact thast decay is a random process.  Furthermore the background radiation may not have been as constant and precise as thought.  The percentage error in the GM counter is:

= absolute error x 100% = 0.000

...read more.

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4 star(s)

Response to the question

This is a well-structured and well thought out piece, with a good understanding of the underlying physics. You have included most necessary sections such as safety, method and evaluation, but you are missing your preliminary work. Even just a small ...

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Response to the question

This is a well-structured and well thought out piece, with a good understanding of the underlying physics. You have included most necessary sections such as safety, method and evaluation, but you are missing your preliminary work. Even just a small paragraph stating your thoughts and choice of materials before the experiment would do, as you have not otherwise shown evidence of planning your experiment, so you could not achieve full marks. You have shown your raw data and shown the intermediate steps you have taken to determine your conclusion, which allows the reliability of your experiment to be analysed.

Level of analysis

You have shown understanding of topics regarding your experiment, and used this to identify any problems or steps that must be taken to accurately conduct your experiment, such as testing the background radiation and removing this count from your result. You have chosen your radioactive materials well, but without information on why you chose these particular isotopes (which is a rich topic to talk about – really an opportunity missed there) this is irrelevant as it could be luck without evidence to the contrary. The last paragraph shows a 0.000% error in the results, which is incorrect, where it should be negligible and you should talk about this fact.

Quality of writing

Spelling and language are of a very high standard, but short, single point sentences with little punctuation such as commas are used throughout, which doesn’t present the good physics as well as it could. The graphs and tables are well presented and do help add to the information in the text. Appropriate scientific language and specifics is used well. The piece flows as the experiment is conducted - beginning, data collected, analysed and conclusion in order.


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