Sunday, April 5, 2020

Alpha radiation makes sparks, detects smoke, and eliminates static cling

Interesting applications of a strong polonium-210 alpha radiation source.  The half life is only 140 days, so the Staticmaster brushes must be replaced every year or so.

Great technical article on ionization smoke detectors:

Staticmaster refill:

Ionization chamber:

Carl Willis' video on spark gap detectors. (check out his whole channel)

Polonium poisoning:

Mightyohm geiger counter:

Applied Science on Patreon:


  1. Interesting demonstration! I used to work on gravitometers. They had very delicate quartz sensors, and the instruments had Americium sources to knock static off. The amount depended upon the individual instrument, but some of them were quite hot.

  2. Fantastic demonstration! I build one of these as an undergraduate a few years ago, similarly inspired by Carl Willis.

    My friend took a quite high quality long exposure shot of the device in action, link below.

    [the nitrite gloved hand is purely aesthetic]

  3. can you do a video on air filters and mask filters....
    Area of the filter and what the proper face volocity ties into it, cfm. proper filter flow rate?

    1. Just feel that most diy masks are poor design.

      ok getting a good seal to the face and seal the thread line is important.

      but they are skipping the filter material specs.
      How much filter area (Larger area lowers the air velocity)?
      What velocity air flow rate though the filter material?
      How does the CFM being low and high (reference to target cfm) does it do to filter efficiency at removing virus?
      What is the CFM, Flow rate and air velocity of a person breathing?

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  5. Is it possible to share the first .stl file for printing? ;-)

  6. Hi Ben, great thread, as usual. Just noted your amazon source of polonium is "out of stock". This product (particularly, the refills) are on sale at Adorama... ie on line photo supply sources.