Build your own Cloud Chamber

Link to the demonstrator: in English


Age: 14-16

Duration: 3 hours

Equipment: Basic materials to build cloud chamber

Contact details

Author: Emmanuel Chaniotakis (EA)
Contact: info[at]frontiers-project[dot]eu


This demonstrator introduces students to cloud chambers, the first experimental apparatus that enabled scientists to visualize elementary particles coming from the cosmos. Students are introduced to cosmic rays, they learn about the principles of operation of a diffusion cloud chamber, and with the help of their teacher they construct a simple diffusion cloud chamber in order to observe cosmic ray particle tracks in it. 


Learning outcomes:

To introduce students to the concept of particle detection.

To have students build a simple cloud chamber detector.

To teach students that invisible ionizing radiation can leave visible “footprints” and what these can be.

To initiate a discussion about cosmic rays.



Prior knowledge:

Thermodynamics (adiabatic expansion, condensation, vaporization), 
Atomic Structure: Ionization

Supersaturated solutions

Concepts introduced:

  • Cosmic Rays: 
  • Muons
  • Particle Detectors



Learning intentions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to:


  • describe the principles of operation of a cloud chamber.
  • explain what happens when ionizing radiation enters the cloud chamber. 
  • discuss qualitatively the properties of a muon track observed in a cloud chamber.
  • explain what happens when I change the overburden and the altitude of the location of the cloud chamber.



Key activities:

  1. Construction of a diffusion cloud chamber with simple materials.
  2. Observation of particle tracks due to cosmic ray interactions with the cloud chamber.

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