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Radiation detector developed by C.T.R. Wilson. Its detecting medium is a supersaturated vapour (seesaturation) that condenses around ions produced by the passage of energetic charged particles, such as alpha particles, beta particles, or protons. In a Wilson cloud chamber, supersaturation is caused by the cooling induced by a sudden expansion of the saturated vapour by the motion of a piston or an elastic membrane. In a diffusion chamber, the saturated vapour is cooled to supersaturation as it diffuses into a region kept cold by a coolant such as solid carbon dioxide or liquid helium.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cloud chamber, visit Britannica.com.