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Run Time: approx. 1 minute
Objective: This demonstration will teach the principles of chain reactions.
Review of Scientific Principles: A nuclear reactor produces energy by causing a fission reaction of a heavy unstable atom like 235Uranium into smaller elements we call fission products. The reaction is started by hitting the atom with a slow neutron. Then, a chain reaction begins as each atom breaks into fission products and more neutrons. So, if you start with one atom of Uranium and each atom gives off 2 neutrons (for example) when it undergoes fission, then after each fission reaction you have 2 new neutrons which could cause fission events of their own. This type of reaction can be simulated with mouse traps and ping pong balls. By setting up several mouse traps all loaded with ping pong balls and hitting one of them with a free ping pong ball, you can see a chain reaction for yourself!
Source: University of Illinois
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