The Nuclear Radiation with Vernier lab book has an experiment on measuring the half-life of radioactive isotopes. While it is a good experiment, the Cesium/Barium Isogenerator required to provide the short half-life radioactive material is expensive. The cost is over $230, and some instructors may have concerns about bringing radioactive sources into the classroom.

Richard Born, a retired professor from Northern Illinois University and a frequent contributor to this newsletter, devised a clever way to simulate this experiment using a SparkFun Redboard, an Arduino-compatible board, and the Vernier Arduino Interface Shield. Dr. Born has written a program (called a sketch) that is loaded on the Arduino. The Arduino is connected to a Vernier interface using a Motion Detector cable. This is all you need to collect very realistic radioactivity data. The simulation randomly selects one of several different simulated isotopes. The graph shows one sample run.

Data from a single simulated isotope

This simulation can also be used with Logger Pro or LabQuest App with a LabQuest or LabPro interface.

Download Radiation Half-Life Simulator