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Do-It-Yourself Ion Trapping 


Wolfgang Paul and Hans Dehmelt received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1989 for developing ion trapping technieques, and you can build your own ion traps to levitate charged particles in air.

The photograph on the right shows a collection of 25-micron-diameter particles trapped in a loop earring. Additional pictures below show traps made from various buckles and key rings. Traps like these are easy to make and fun to use.

What you need:
>> A high-voltage transformer, capable of supplying at least 3kV AC at 50-60 Hz. These are not easy to find, but we are happy to sell you the transformer we use here. We had this transormer specially made to convert 110 volts to 6 kV, and is well suited for microparticle ion trapping.
>> A Variac to drive the transformer, such as this one.
>> Current-limiting resistors, for safety. We use 10 MOhm, 10 Watt resistors. You can buy them from your favorite electronics supplier (Mouser, Digikey, etc.).
>> Some particles to trap; we recommend Lycopodium club moss spores, as they are cheap and harmless. They are available online under the name "Dragon's Breath", ane you can purchase some from Amazon or other suppliers.
>> A laser pointer to illuminate the particles, with a lens to expand the laser beam to a diameter of about 1 cm. The particles are quite difficult to see without laser illumination.
>> An electronics chassis.

The necessary  know-how is supplied in the documentation below.  Good luck!
 

Written Documentation - Ion Trapping Demo Kit

1. Improved Microparticle Electrodynamic Ion Traps for Physics Teaching
        This paper describes ion trapping physics and many experimental tricks to make terrific microparticle ion traps.


2. How to Construct a Microparticle Ion Trap
        A mathematics-free (almost) description of ion trapping

3. Physics of electrodynamic ion traps - A qualitative description
        A mathematics-free (almost) description of ion trapping



Video Documentation - Ion Trapping Demo Kit

Coming Soon .... See also our Electrodynamic Ion Traps experiment.



Photo Gallery - Ion Trapping Demo Kit

These ion traps were all made with ths kit, using key rings, buckles, etc.  The traps are all interchangable since they are held in place (and powered) using a single alligator clip  The trap above is made from a diamond-shaped earring.  The particles were illuminated with a green laser, and some of the images were modified (using PaintShopPro) to give different colors.

Round Key RingOval Key RingKey Ring 2D-ring trap