Observing the World of Particles
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The Bubble Chamber

How Glaser Developed the Bubble Chamber

Penetrating cosmic ray track observed 1952 in the small 3 cl bubble chamber filled with diethyl-eter at 140oC.


Glaser thought of using a liquid where the density of particles is several orders of magnitude higher than in a gas. Particle collisions could then take place in the liquid and interactions could be studied. Glaser’s brilliant idea was to use a liquid that for a brief moment is in an unstable state as superheated - above the boiling point. Charged particles could be made visible because boiling starts along the tracks. The trick is to hold the liquid under overpressure and just below its boiling point. When the pressure is lowered the liquid becomes superheated. The pressure reduction can be timed with a bunch of particles from an accelerator. After a few milliseconds small bubbles of size typically 10-100 micrometers are formed along charged particle tracks. The tracks are photographed, the pressure reset and ready for next spill of particles from an accelerator. Glacer's first bubble chamber from 1952 operated successfully but was very small, only 3 centiliters in volume!


Related Laureate

 The Nobel Prize in Physics 1960 - Donald Arthur Glaser  »    

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