Tuesday, 7 May 2013

radioisotopes (study)

Research study into design and construction of radioisotope based random event generator systems for use in modular synthesis and art installations. This system currently functions as a study setup for an artwork : Radioisotopes (sound installation / audio diffusion of the radioactive decay of alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays).



Cobalt-60 gamma ray disc source positioned over Geiger-Mueller tube


The prototype setup consists of two license exempt radioisotope 1" standard disc sources (Cobalt-60 gamma & Strontium-90 beta), 2 x Geiger-Mueller tubes for beta/gamma detection, 2 x pulse detectors and a microcontroller. The alpha particle source will be Polonium-210, which still requires :

i) an allocated work time due to its incredibly short half-life of 138 days
ii) an alpha detecting capable tube

Strontium-90 beta particle disc source positioned over Geiger-Mueller tube

Rear of Cobalt-60 disc source with illumination to show location within the disc

Front of Cobalt-60 disc source with illumination to show location within the disc

My friend Bernd Ulmann built a very interesting true random number generator, which inspired me to have a go at designing my own. A quick extract from Bernd's description : "The random generator employs a Geiger-Mueller tube to count the events generated by the decay of a Thorium isotope." The internal electronics consists of a Geiger counter, Thorium radioisotope, microprocessor and associated circuitry.

Bernd Ulmann's Thorium based random number generator

Further reading :

http://www.random.org/

http://www.random.org/randomness/

http://www.fourmilab.ch/hotbits/

James Acord : Artist who worked with nuclear materials
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Acord

in particular this article on James Acord is essential reading :
www.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/docs/2002-11-3.pdf

http://www.artscatalyst.org/james-acord-life-nuclear-age-you-cant-make-shit

James Acord had his nuclear materials license number as a tattoo (Source Image : The Arts Catalyst)

James Acord (1944 - 2011) - Atomic Artist (Source : Wikipedia)