Radioactive lenses

Started May 20, 2012 | Discussions thread
ProfHankD
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Re: Radioactive lenses
In reply to Helen, May 21, 2012

Helen wrote:

These things are pretty variable, I think, due to the use of different batches of optical glass.

Most of the radioactive materials used are primarily alpha emitters with very long half lives. The most common is Thorium 232, with a half life of 14 billion years as an Alpha emitter. The decay chain contains both Alpha and short-lived Beta emitters (which also are significant Gamma emitters). It thus depends on how much of the sample is where in the decay chain.

Of course, that's assuming we start with pure material... we don't. It takes very little of some of the hotter materials to dramatically change the emission profile and I suspect that it is mostly radioactive impurities that make some lenses much hotter than others. After all, these materials were refined and used for their physical and chemical properties, neither of which requires extreme purity.

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