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Rutherford’s Alpha-Particle

Scattering Experiment
By: Muhammad Asif, Talha Faisal,
Ahmad Hussain, Ibrahim Rafique &
Areeb Shaikh

alpha particles were ideal. In those days they did not have particle accelerators providing a ready supply of protons or neutrons so they had to use something that could be used as a natural probe . In 1911 Rutherford wanted to find out more about the structure of the atom so he set two of his research students (Geiger and Marsden) the task of bombarding gold atoms with alpha particles. gathering data as to what happened to the 'missiles' and making deductions about the atom's structure from that data. .Concept of the Experiment  If you wanted to know more about a dark room that you were unable to go into. you might be able to get an idea of its size and contents by throwing balls into the room and considering their behaviour (the sort of task you might get in an Adventure game made for the computer).  Physicists do the same kind of thing when 'looking at' tiny objects such as atoms. you would be able to tell where obstacles were and roughly the size of the room.

 The alpha source emits alpha particles randomly in all directions. but to study how their path is altered we have to be sure that they only hit the foil at a fixed angle (90O).he hadn't discovered the one you know about yet. Their properties had been under investigation for about a decade (much of it done by Rutherford!) and he had been doing research into the fact that if he used high energy alpha particles they were able to penetrate thin metal foil sheets when he came up with the idea of that they would be ideal as a probe to atomic structure.so only those travelling parallel to each other and in one direction get through! . Remember he thought of the 'atom' as the 'plum pudding' structure .To achieve this we must use a collimator.   They are produced naturally by radioactive nuclides that are alpha emitters (small proton rich nuclei) and so a steady supply was easy to obtain.unless they are travelling parallel to the sides of the outlet of the collimator they will impact on the side and be absorbed .The Use of Alpha-Particles  Alpha particles are small (only two protons and two neutrons) and yet have enough mass (4u) to be a suitable missile (lots of momentum). This absorbs all of the alpha particles except those travelling in one direction . He was expecting tiny changes in trajectory as they met up with atomic substructure.

 Gold was the ideal choice as gold can be rolled out into very fine gold leaf sheets. It would be impossible to get just one to examine. These very fine sheets are only a few atoms deep.The Foil  A single atom is too small to look at. Therefore gold foil would produce results of interactions that could be best related to the interaction between a single alpha and a single nucleus  If the foil was too thick the alpha particles would just be absorbed. . Therefore Rutherford decided to look at a metal foil consisting of many atoms in a very thin sheet. Remember that he expected most of them to just go through but he knew that they could be absorbed by thicker foils and even by a few centimetres of air.

Covering the microscope lens with ZnS allowed the viewer to 'see' where the alpha particles hit (or at least count their impacts).The Evacuated Chamber:  It had to be performed in a vacuum because the air would absorb the alpha particles before they hit the foil or before they got to the screen! The Zinc Sulphide Screen:  Zinc sulphide fluoresces (gives out a photon of visible light) when it is hit by a charged particle. .

Measuring the Angle  In order to find out how much the alpha particles had been deflected from their path the microscope arm was connected to a turntable. 'It was quite the most incredible event that has happened to me in my life! It was almost as incredible as if you fired a 15" shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you!' . It could rotate around the vacuum filled drum and how far it had rotated could be read off a vernier scale etched onto the turntable.  When the angle was zero (the straight through position) the number of scintillations per minute on the screen would be high.  The really surprising result was the number than were 'backscattered' that made angles of greater than 90o with their original trajectory. Rutherford was amazed. he said.  As the angle increased the number of scintillations per minute would be much lower.

The Efforts  Less than 1 in 8. repeat and repeat and report the strange findings to Rutherford so that a whole new model of the atom could be developed? It is the careful (and honest!) investigation into anomalies that often lead to new theories. This gives an indication of the tedious work involved in taking a checking the results! They would have to be repeated many times to be sure they were not due to anomalies! Would you have been tempted to discount totally inexplicable results and give your professor a set of results he expected? Or would you. In the early 1900s scientists had to do a lot of painstaking measurements! .  Nowadays this could be done with data logging and computer analysis. like Geiger and Marsden.000 alpha particles back scattered.

Alpha-Particle Scattering Experiment .

 The fact that backscattering occurred in 1 in 8000 alpha particles indicated that there was a: small (that was why so few were affected) massive (meaning containing lots of mass . .so he made no mention of them!).The Conclusion  When Rutherford mathematically investigated the results he proposed a model that explained the results that Geiger and Marsden obtained.he knew the electrons had very little mass and the fact that all of the positive charges were concentrated into a small area meant that the mass was concentrated there too) positively charged (because it repelled the alpha particles) nucleus in the centre of the atom (neutrons had not been discovered at that time .  The fact that the vast majority of the alpha particles got straight through led Rutherford to propose that the atom was composed primarily of empty space.

 This model was later amended by Bohr (to take into account a couple of points that Rutherford's atom did not fully explain the motion of the electrons and the orbital paths that could explain what the Chemists understood of electron behaviour in bonding) to make the model of the atom that you are taught at GCSE but it was still a magnificent advance to our understanding of atomic structure. . So Rutherford’s picture was one of the atom being like the solar system the sun being the nucleus (taking a very small proportion of the volume of the solar system but being the vast bulk of the mass in it) and the electrons being like the planets orbiting the 'sun'.