Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory - The 15-foot Bubble Chamber
A little-known relic of the early days of high energy particle physics,
this massive stainless steel structure sits resplendent on the prairie at Batavia, Illinois.
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15-foot Bubble Chamber
On June 8, 2004, the bubble chamber was moved from its experimental
home inside a nearby building to this public viewing area. Video
Bubble Chamber
The 15 foot diameter bubble chamber used at Fermilab during the 1970's was filled with a mixture of superheated liquid neon or hydrogen, wrapped in a huge supercooled, superconducting magnet. A beam of high energy protons was directed onto an aluminum or aluminum oxide target and through the fluid, producing an electromagnetic shower of particle tracks consisting of microscopic bubbles in arcing trajectories.

The cylinder underneath the chamber contained a huge plastic (fiberglass) piston which was used to suddenly increase the volume of the vessel; it was this sudden decrease in pressure with a simultaneous injection of the proton - neutrino burst that allowed such tiny particles at very high energy to cause localized boiling manifested in the bubble-track/wake. The cylinder could be pulsed as quickly as .333 millisecond intervals, but the image output (cycle time + beam power) was restricted by the necessity of removing the enormous amount of heat generated in the fluid during each pulse, and the quick destruction of each target.

--C. Baltay, Columbia University, W.B. Fowler and D. Theriot, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

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