Introduction: Make a Cloud Chamber Using Peltier Coolers

Picture of Make a Cloud Chamber Using Peltier Coolers

Cloud chambers let you see vapor trails left by radioactive particles!

A version of this cloud chamber is now available for purchase (fully assembled and tested) from

Discuss cloud chamber assembly and radioactive samples at

Cloud chambers work by creating a supersaturation of alcohol vapor.  Vapor trails are then formed when the radiation ionizes the alcohol.

Cloud chambers need to be very cold (about -15f) - so most designs require dry ice.

This design uses inexpensive electrical "Peltier" coolers instead!  No need to buy / store dry ice!

It's fairly easy to construct - and should only cost about $100.

This chamber design cools down very quickly - you can see vapor trails within a few minutes.

On the downside - it's not as cold as a dry ice chamber - so the supersaturated area isn't as thick.

Step 1: Stuff You'll Need (Part 1)

Picture of Stuff You'll Need (Part 1)

Peltier Coolers (need 2)
- Model 12709 (138 watts "max") for "top" cooler ($8 on ebay)
- Model 12710 (168 watts "max") for "bottom" cooler (also $8 on ebay)
- Search eBay -descriptions- to find specific models
- Often listed as "TEC", "Thermoelectric" or "Peltier" coolers and have TEC1 or CP1 as a prefix to the model number
- Other models with similar wattage ratings can likely be used (bottom cooler should have a slightly higher wattage rating than the bottom)
- Coolers look identical - put a piece of tape on a wire of the 12710 so you can identify it later
- Larger coolers are not necessarily better
- Fragile wires tend to break - avoid bending (might want to buy a spare or two)
- Do -NOT- connect a peltier to power backwards or without a heatsink!
- See the bottom of this page for info on a single-Peltier option

Power Supply #1
- 12v and at least 8 amps (good results between about 11v and 15v)
- Used to power 'bottom' peltier cooler
- part # PS-1512 is a good option for $25

Power Supply #2
- 5 volts and at least 2.5 amps (good results between about 4v and 8v)
- Used to power 'top' peltier cooler
- D-Link JTA0302C power supply on ebay for about $10
- Alternative: Use a PC ATX power supply for both 12v and 5v sources (Google for more info)

CPU Cooler / Fan
- Look for "heat pipes" and a 120mm fan
- Design that can be run "upside down" with good airflow
- The Cooler Master Hyper 212 works well and is cheap (under $30 on ebay)
- Cooler Master V8 works well and looks cool (about $50)
- The Corsair H50 (liquid cooling) works a little better - but is more expensive / complicated (about $70)
- See for other possible coolers

Alternative Single Peltier / Single Power Supply Configuration
- This project can also be built using a single dual-stage peltier cooler
- The 19012-5L31-06CQQ from Custom Thermoelectric ($53) has been tested and works well (order with Moisture Sealing option)
- Requires a 12V power supply capable of 6 amps (5V power supply is not needed)
- Other project details stay the same

Step 2: Stuff You'll Need (Part 2)

Picture of Stuff You'll Need (Part 2)

Small Plastic Container
- Relatively flat bottom (doesn't need to be perfect)
- Fairly thin plastic (1/16th" or less)
- Good Transparency
- Good results with Rubbermaid Premier 473ml (about $5)

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- $10 at Radio Shack for 3.5 grams
- Should probably get 2 tubes (if you're efficient you may get away with 1)
- Arctic Silver "Ceramique" provides good results for less money (22 grams for about $10 at Fry's)
- Other thermal compounds / paste can work
- Have -not- had good luck with Radio Shack's "house brand" thermal paste

- 99% rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol works best ($5 at drug store)
- Denatured ethyl alcohol is another option (hardware store paint section)
- 91% rubbing alcohol can also work (maybe not as well)

Misc. electrical connectors to hook stuff up
- Soldering is another option
- Don't use thin-wired gator clips - they'll melt

LED flashlight (the cheap 9-LED ones work well)

Black Sharpie felt pen

Step 3: Stuff You'll Need (Part 3)

Picture of Stuff You'll Need (Part 3)

1/4" x 1" nut + bolt (size doesn't really matter)

1" x 1" piece of kitchen sponge

Styrofoam cup (or other static source - a balloon also work well)

Infrared / non-contact thermometer (optional)
- Optimally can read to at least -28f
- Cen-tech Pocket Thermometer goes for about $20 on ebay
- Cheaper ones may give erratic results

Multimeter (optional)
- For verifying power supply polarity / troubleshooting

Step 4: Obtaining a Radioactive Source

Picture of Obtaining a Radioactive Source
There are many easily obtained inexpensive (and legal) radioactive sources available online.

See video samples / discuss radioactive sources at

Certain years of Fiestaware dishes featured a "radioactive red" color that actually contained uranium!

A small chip can make an excellent cheap cloud chamber source - try searching ebay for "fiestaware sample"

Small Autunite samples commonly sell for about $20 on ebay (contains uranium).

Search ebay descriptions for "geiger" and "cpm" to see other possibilities.

Alternately - the cloud chamber can be used without a radiation source to view cosmic rays.  They typically appear once every 1-2 minutes.

Take precautions appropriate for your sample!  The provider of your specimen may be able to provide further information on its safety.

To be extra safe - use gloves when handling.  Wash your hands after if you should touch it.

Step 5: Add Thermal Paste to the Heatsink

Picture of Add Thermal Paste to the Heatsink

Position the CPU cooler with the heatsink surface facing up.

Spread a small amount of Arctic Silver on top of the heatsink using a credit card or thin piece of plastic.

Spread it thinly and evenly (thinner is better). Cover an area the size of a peltier cooler.

Step 6: Mount the Bottom Peltier Cooler

Picture of Mount the Bottom Peltier Cooler

Place the 12710 peltier cooler on top of the heatsink.

Important: The wires should be facing you and the red wire should be on your right.

This should assure that the peltier is positioned with the cold side up.

Push the peltier down - and move it around slightly to assure good contact with the thermal paste.

Step 7: Connect the Bottom Peltier and Fan to Power

Picture of Connect the Bottom Peltier and Fan to Power

First - Make sure the 12v power supply is unplugged!

Electrically connect the CPU cooler's fan and the peltier to the 12v power supply.

Red goes to positive, black to negative.

Ignore any unused connections for the fan.

Step 8: Test the Fan and Bottom Peltier

Picture of Test the Fan and Bottom Peltier

These steps need to be performed quickly!  If the peltier is connected backwards or is upside down - it'll burn up in a very short period unless it's disconnected.

1. Plug in the 12v power supply (fan should spin up)

2. Quickly touch the top of the peltier (or measure it with a thermometer)

3. Is it warm? UNPLUG THE POWER NOW! (peltier is backwards or upside down)

4. Is it cold? Good! (unplug the power)

Step 9: Spread Thermal Paste, Attach the Second Peltier and Connect It

Picture of Spread Thermal Paste, Attach the Second Peltier and Connect It

Thinly spread a small amount of Arctic Silver over the top of the peltier you've already placed on the heatsink.

Place the other peltier (12709) on top of the existing one.  Push it down a bit to assure good contact.

Important: The wires should be facing you and the red wire should be on your right.

Connect the top peltier to the 5v power supply (leave power supply unplugged).

Step 10: Test the Top Peltier

Picture of Test the Top Peltier

Same drill as before - these steps need to be performed quickly!

1. Plug in the 5v power supply

2. Quickly touch the top of the peltier (or measure it with a thermometer)

3. Is it warm? UNPLUG THE POWER NOW! (peltier is backwards or upside down)

4. Is it cold? Good! (unplug the power)

Step 11: Test Both Peltiers Simultaneously

Picture of Test Both Peltiers Simultaneously

Plug in the 5v and 12v power supplies.

Marvel at how cold the top peltier gets!

If you have a thermometer - hopefully it reads -18f or colder!

If not - something might be wrong - or it could just be your thermometer isn't that accurate (this is common).

Unplug both power supplies.  If any condensation has formed on the top peltier - wipe it off.

Step 12: Black Out the Bottom of the Cloud Chamber

Picture of Black Out the Bottom of the Cloud Chamber

Use the Sharpie to black out the -outside- bottom of the plastic container.

This will help the vapor trails appear more clearly.

Step 13: Attach the Sponge to the Container's Top

Picture of Attach the Sponge to the Container's Top

Drill a hole in the top of the container for the bolt.

Poke a small hole in the sponge using a pencil.

Use the nut and bolt to attach the sponge to the inside top of the container.

Don't worry about the seal not being perfect. A small leak at the top of the chamber won't hurt performance.

Step 14: Apply Thermal Compound to the Top Peltier

Picture of Apply Thermal Compound to the Top Peltier

Apply Arctic Silver to the top of the top peltier.

This time - apply it fairly liberally.  Use enough so that good contact can be made with the bottom of the container (accounting for any imperfections like raised text).

Yes - normally less is better with thermal paste - but this is an exception.

This may be the point where you have to run to Radio Shack to buy another tube of Arctic Silver.

Step 15: Attach the Container to the Top Peltier Cooler

Picture of Attach the Container to the Top Peltier Cooler

Place the container on top of the top peltier.  Push it down - and squish things around a little.

If it doesn't seem to be making good contact - try adding more Arctic Silver.

Try to make a tight seal - you don't want condensation getting between the container and the peltier.

Step 16: Test Everything With Container Attached / Troubleshooting

Picture of Test Everything With Container Attached / Troubleshooting

Plug both power supplies in.

The bottom of the container should get very could within several minutes minutes.

If you have a thermometer - hopefully it reads -14f or better!  (Don't worry if the entire surface doesn't read this cold.)

If so - your cloud chamber is now ready for use!

If you aren't getting this cold:

- Don't place too much faith in your thermometer - if you're getting significantly below 0f - it may make sense to proceed and see if things work

- This article originally suggested Tec1-12709's top and bottom - this will work - but using a Tec1-12710 on the bottom works better.  If you're using two Tec1-12709's and having poor results - you may want to switch out the bottom one with the CP1-12710.

- Check your thermal paste application - this is probably the most common issue.  The layers between the peltiers and the heatsink should be thin.  The final layer between the top peltier and the chamber may need to be fairly thick to make good contact.  As a last resort - you may find that removing all thermal paste using alcohol - and then re-applying solves the issue.

- Are the peltier coolers and container all centered over the middle of the heatsink?

- Is your heatsink getting even a little warm?  If so - it may not be good enough.

- If your heatsink is getting warm - one option is to remove the fan - and place it in a container of cold water (maybe even with ice).  This will provide extremely effective cooling - at least until the water warms up.

- Verify your electrical connections are good (warm wires indicate they are too thin).

- Try applying a small amount of weight / pressure to the top of the chamber - this might help close up any gaps in the thermal paste.

- Re-test the peltiers.  You can also check them against their specified resistance values using your multimeter (they shouldn't read any higher than 4 ohms). 

- Try waiting a few hours - some thermal pastes will "set up" and become more conductive over time

Step 17: Using the Chamber

Picture of Using the Chamber

Place your radioactive sample inside the cloud chamber.

Add about 1 teaspoon of alcohol to the sponge.

Put the top on the container.

Plug in both power supplies.

Hold the LED flashlight behind the chamber.

Within a minute or two you should be able to see a fine mist covering the bottom 1/8th inch or so of the container.

Try changing your viewing angle / flashlight position to best see the mist.

Rub the styrofoam cup (or other static thingy such as a balloon) in your hair - then place it over the container.

Within 2-10 minutes - you should start seeing vapor trails from the radiation!

IMPORTANT: "Recharge" the styofoam cup / balloon (rubbing it in your hair) periodically.  Try removing it / repositioning it to see what provides the best visibility of radiation trails.  This is key to being able to see alpha particles!

If you don't see trails - revisit the troubleshooting section in step 16.

Performance may improve as things cool.

Step 18: Tips

Picture of Tips

Important: Periodically check to make sure the peltiers / chamber aren't sliding away from the center of the heatsink (this is bad).  Gently reposition them if this happens.

Without a radiation source - you'll be able to see cosmic rays every few minutes.  Definitely try this!

Get help / share your cloud chamber with others at

It's possible to run the chamber with the top slightly off (or with a hole cut in it) for direct viewing.  This can be great for shooting photos and video.

If you're not getting trails - or they seem to vanish quickly - try re-applying a static source (styrofoam cup / etc) as mentioned in the prior step. This is key to getting good results!

If you like playing with high voltage - you can try attaching a 1kv or higher DC source to the screw on top of the chamber.  This will provide the same ion-clearing / performance-boosting effect the styrofoam cup does - but is way cooler because it's high voltage.

If too much alcohol builds up on the bottom of the container - it may hurt performance (wick it up with a paper towel).

If your sample becomes wet with alcohol - some radiation will get blocked (again - a paper towel can solve this issue).  This is a very common issue with small Americium samples.

The rubbing alcohol on the sponge should last a long time - but if you stop seeing trails - it may be time to add more.

If you only see trails / mist over a small portion of the container - you may want to try applying more thermal paste between the container and top peltier.

Other directional light sources besides LEDs (like spotlights) can also provide good lighting results.  Standard incandescent or florescent bulbs may even work at certain angles (especially if in a desk lamp or other fixture)- experiment!

To improve viewing contrast - black out the -inside- of the container with the black permanent marker.  The downside of this is that eventually the alcohol will dissolve the ink - making a bit of a mess.

Depending on a number of variables you may find that increasing / decreasing the voltage for either cooler may improve results.

However - do -not- try running the top peltier at 12v instead of 5v.  It won't work (at least not well) - trust me.

(The quick explanation is that each peltier needs to pump all the heat pumped by the one above it -plus- any heat the upper peltier generated itself.  Since peltiers are not very efficient - this head adds up pretty quickly - and becomes a problem.  Trying to stack two peltiers running at the same total power level will result in -less- cooling than a single peltier at the same power.)


HerfienR (author)2018-01-01

Hello, I just can buy tec1 12706 in my home town, I make it double, bottom use 12V and top use 5 V or 3 V. But it doesn't work. I use single TEC1 12706 it works. I can reach coolest temperature. Should I look for another type of peltier ?

vnguyễn19 (author)2017-09-25

In my homeland, I can't buy TEC1-12709 I just can buy TEC1-12715 TEC1-12710 TEC1-12706 TEC1-12706AJ. Can I replace TEC1-12709 with these?

nothinglabs (author)vnguyễn192017-09-28

Yes. There are a lot of minor variations that work. I might try a 12706 on top, and a 12710 on bottom. Very likely that combination could produce useful results.

(don't know anything about the AJ models)

Good luck!


DiegoF49 (author)2017-03-02

I'm wondering if there is a way to make a permanent solution. If the container is perfectly sealed and the gas cannot escape, do you think it's possible?

nothinglabs (author)DiegoF492017-03-20

Issue isn't with sealing of the chamber - but rather that all the alcohol eventually precipitates down to the bottom.

I think someone out there managed to solve this by placing the entire chamber -slightly- at an angle - and then have the alcohol puddle wick back up to the top using a sponge... (might be a youtube video out there..)

castor12 (author)2016-12-18


I want to build cloud chamber with Corsair H60 cooler and single peltier you recommend . What power supply would recommend for this set up.?

nothinglabs (author)castor122016-12-21

Hi Castor!

​The 19012-5L31-06CQQ dual-stage peltier from Custom Thermoelectric can easily be run off a 12v / 6 amp power supply (I've used 5 amps before without problems). You can get power supplies of this size for around $10-15 online sold as for use with LED strip lighting (Amazon has a number of options).
This forum post suggests current needs for the Corsair are under an amp:
Think you'd be fine running everything off the same 6 amp / 12v supply.

Best of luck with your build!


HannaA5 made it! (author)2016-11-15

My cloud chamber based on these instructions :)

nothinglabs (author)HannaA52016-12-07

awesome! video link isn't working... have it posted someplace else?

HannaA5 (author)nothinglabs2016-12-08


nothinglabs (author)HannaA52016-12-13

nice build!

supernuke123 (author)2016-11-13

I created this project, and am doing a science fair on it. I would like to know what the use of the static source is, as I didn't use it and still got many cosmic rays.

nothinglabs (author)supernuke1232016-11-15

when people ask about the static source i tend to wave my hands and say it "makes it better".

at least part if it may have to do with "clearing" particles ionized by the radioactive source. so - it makes sense it would be less of issue with weak background radiation "source"

glad you got it working!


ckhc86 (author)2016-09-08

For this peltier cooler cloud chamber, I noticed that you have used a plastic container. Would a glass container suffice as well? Which one would you recommend? Furthermore, would it be ok if my design simply consisted of a container top over an aluminium plate which is thermally pasted on peltier coolers?

Sorry for the bunch of questions but I would like to clarify whether this is a good method in achieving a cool base and in general, make my cloud chamber work. Because in the end, I plan on attaching high voltage to a pin at the top of the chamber as well as the aluminium plate.


nothinglabs (author)ckhc862016-09-20

Glass can work fine - although I'd suggest thin plastic / fiberglass for the base.

Aluminum base will most likely cause grief. It will disperse the cooling effect over a larger area - and result in a larger somewhat-cold area - as opposed to small very-cold area.

Good luck!


ckhc86 (author)nothinglabs2016-10-04

Thanks for your advice Rich!

Could clear acrylic boxes do the job too? Such as those clear display cases you find in common home stores.

nothinglabs (author)ckhc862016-10-12

sounds like a good option to me!

ckhc86 (author)nothinglabs2016-09-30

Can the 12709 peltier cooler be used on 12V as well?

nothinglabs (author)ckhc862016-10-01

If the 12709 is on top - it should be run at a lower voltage than the one at the bottom. Range of 3v-6v produces is likely best.

If you try to run the voltage higher - the larger peltier on the bottom won't be able to pump the extra heat - and the total cooling effect will be reduced.

eellis3 (author)2016-09-12

Hey there! I've made this cloud chamber to your specifications (the two
peltier-cooler version), and for whatever reason I'm not getting a vapor
cloud in the chamber. The peltier coolers get the surface pretty cold
(I don't have a thermometer to measure with, but it gets cold enough to
freeze water vapor out of the air within just a few seconds). I've used
91% and 95% alcohol solution to test with, and neither time did a vapor
cloud form. In both instances, alcohol began to condense onto the bottom
of the container, but there weren't suspended droplets like those
present in your videos.

I've been trying to figure out the cause,
and I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: 1, I just don't
understand how you're using your static source. To my understanding,
it's just a Styrofoam cup you place atop the container. Nothing special,
right? Or 2, the peltier coolers simply aren't making the chamber cold
enough. Like I said, I have no thermometer, but if that's a problem
you've encountered fairly regularly I'm willing to buy one to check. I'd
just like to know if there are any common problems experienced when
constructing this device that could account for my issue. Thanks!

eellis3 (author)eellis32016-09-12

Also, I forgot to mention: The power supplies for the peltier coolers are just wall-plug power-supplies with converters attached, like laptop chargers. They're rated to the correct current and voltage, though, so I figured that wasn't the problem. I also have them both hooked up to a single power strip, for the sake of efficiency, but again I'm not sure if this might be causing some sort of problem with the power draw.

nothinglabs (author)eellis32016-09-20

Hi there - sorry for delay in responding...

It's pretty hard to speculate too much without a temperature reading - but there are some common issues...

Yes - static source is nothing special. Styrofoam cup you've rubbed in your hair should work fine...

Are you sure you're power supply is providing enough current?

Are you sure both peltiers are working? (try them separately...)

Is the bottom of your chamber colored black somehow? It's really impossible to see the vapor against a white surface.

Are you use an LED light?

If you're having problems with alcohol pooling - try wiping it off with a paper towel... Try using -less- alcohol (just let the sponge air our a bit - then try again)...

Just a few things to check... hope this helps!


ckhc86 (author)2016-09-03

Hello, may I ask how large the surface area of cooling will be if I use the peltier coolers as you have shown above? Is there any way of increasing this surface area, such as putting a larger aluminium plate above? Furthermore, what is the effect of having a single peltier at the bottom while above it having two peltiers? Would this cool a larger surface area?

Thank you!

nothinglabs (author)ckhc862016-09-06

You'll get a useful viewing surface of about 40mm x 40mm.

If you try placing an aluminum plate on top - it probably won't increase your viewing area a useful amount. You generally end up cooling a larger area - but it won't get as cold (likely not cold enough).

Suspect having two peltiers on top in parallel would result in trying to pump too much heat into the bottom peltier to be effective. That said - I don't recall if I've tried that particular setup. If you do - please post here!

Good luck!


ArthurC60 (author)2016-08-02

I have tec12712 and tec12710. Which order should I put them in? And what power supplies should I give them? Thank you

nothinglabs (author)ArthurC602016-08-07

Sorry for slow reply.

Definitely put the 12712 on the bottom.

Both those peltiers are going to try to draw a lot of current.

I would try running the bottom peltier (12712) at 10-12v - it will draw something around 8 to 12 amps at those voltages. Try to find a beefy power supply.

I'd run the top 12710 at about 3-6v. Expect 2-5 amps current draw.

Good luck!


ArthurC60 (author)nothinglabs2016-08-09

Great, thank you:).

MaddyHagen (author)2016-06-07

Hello, I am working on improving a cloud chamber design for Siena College. One of the questions raised is based on the performance of the peltiers. Several of the peltiers we have will measure with a higher or lower resistance than the mean. I'm trying to test their performance by taking their temperatures after a set amount of time while on a Cooler Master V8. I'm trying to do this without applying thermal paste to avoid the mess and the cost. However, without the paste, there isn't enough contact to efficiently pull heat away from the peltier. Do you have any suggestions of ways to replace the thermal paste, just for testing? We have tried tape and a weight to hold it down but the tape is not effective and a weight disrupts my ability to take measurements.

nothinglabs (author)MaddyHagen2016-06-18

Hey there - sorry for slow response...

You could try just using water or rubbing alcohol to help mate the coolers.

Im honestly not sure how useful trying to test the coolers is though. Ive had good results with various size coolers - and im not sure if the measuring variability between different coolers of same rating is going to help.

Also - not sure if cooler performance / draw will reliably map to measured resistance (ie - not sure if peltiers behave quite like resistors in regards to power consumption)

Best of luck!

MaddyHagen (author)2016-06-08

Why did you choose to apply more thermal paste to the top peltier? Some students at Siena College had the same idea but I haven't found the necessity. As long as you have an even application, less thermal paste works. Thoughts?

nothinglabs (author)MaddyHagen2016-06-10

you are correct - you should use as little thermal past as possible while assuring good contact between the layers (I was probably being a bit sloppy)

VasilI2 (author)2016-06-04

Hey, there are only TEC 12712 available in my local hardware store. Is it possible to do this project with two of those?

nothinglabs (author)VasilI22016-06-05

You -might- get those working if you run the top cooler at a lower enough voltage (maybe 3v or lower).

Ultimately you'd be much better off using a smaller value peltier on top.

My advice would be to order parts closer to whats described in the project.

BenW102 (author)2016-04-03

Hi Rich, I am currently building a cloud chamber as a physics project. I would really appreciate it if you would be willing to give me some advice/guidance.

I have read your inscrutable and that has been very helpful. However, the design of my cloud chamber is different than your inscrutable. I am currently using 6 (3 by 2) 12706 peltier coolers in a single layer. I have a water cooling system that uses a 5" x 4.25" x 1.5"(thick) heatsink which I made a copper enclosure for so I can pump water through it. I have a 1 gallon reservoir of ice water pumped through the water block/heatsink and then through a small radiator cooled by 3 pc fans. The chamber floor is a piece of 1/16 black garolite. The chamber dimensions are 6" x 5" and 4.5" tall with plexiglass walls and top. I did a test today and the floor didnt get cold enough (maybe -5f measured with an ir thermometer). Without the garolite floor and just the tops of the coolers exposed, some of them got down to ~15f. I never saw a supersaturated layer though, and there was alcohol pooling on the floor of the chamber.

I am not sure exactly what needs to be improved but I think I will start with the coolers. I can get some 12710 coolers on Amazon try running 4 of them at 12v with 4 of the 12706's on top at 5v(or possibly both at 12v?). I am hoping that the chamber is not too large since that would be hard to change. Although I can make it shorter relatively easily.

What would you recommend I do? Thank you in advance for any help. If you need more information or pictures let me know.

Thanks, Ben

LaurinS2 (author)BenW1022016-04-14

hey benw102. i am making an cloud chamber in physics too and i found an nice tutorial for that.

shopping list:



i hope this helps you

BenW102 (author)LaurinS22016-04-16

That was helpful thanks! How is your cloud chamber coming along?

nothinglabs (author)BenW1022016-04-16

Hi Ben - sorry for slow response.

You're hitting very common challenges trying to scale this project up (I've tried a few larger builds with poor-to-mixed results).

If you're seeing alcohol pooling - but no supersaturation - I would try wiping the surface down.

I would -not- trying running 12v to the top coolers - it will generate more heat than the bottom coolers can handle - and you'll end up with less cooling.

I would definitely look at the links that LaurinS2 sent. They probably are a better source of information than myself on this.

Good luck!


BenW102 (author)nothinglabs2016-04-16

Thank you for the tips. I have done some experimentation and I am having luck using 4 10amp peltiers on the bottom at 12v and 4 9amp coolers on top at 5v. I get good results for about 20-25 minutes before my ice water heats up. I am also using a black anodized aluminum floor that seems to work about as well as duct tape over the coolers. I might try a smaller lower powered air cooled decice that can run at room temperature. Thanks again for the help!

mmagistro (author)2016-03-27

Hi Paul, I hope youre enjoying your weekend! I just had a quick question about which type of alcohol to use. Where I am currently they only sell 88% isopropyl at the pharmacy. I've tried this and also denatured alcohol form the states and I can't get a fine mist above my coil. I currently have a reading of approx -47 F using an infared thermometer so my temp is great, my only problem is that i get small drops of alcohol on my coil rather than a mist. Is there anything I can change in my setup for this to happen? I was thinking that I wasn't getting cold enough temps but after checking and freezing a drop of water on my coil I was sure it was cold enough. Any ideas? Perhaps my alcohol isn't pure enough? Could I perhaps use grain alcohol (everclear etc..) to get a fine mist? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

nothinglabs (author)mmagistro2016-03-29

I use 99% isopropyl - but have used 90% with good luck.

If you can't find high grade isopropyl in the pharmacy - you may want to try an autoparts store. "Isoheat" is a gas treatment that's mostly isopropyl alcohol I've had good luck with.

-47f should be plenty cold.

I'm assuming your coil is for HV? I've seen too much HV hurt performance. I'd try starting off just using a balloon for static.

Too much alcohol can also be a problem. If your getting lots of mist but no tracks - I'd try less.

Hope this helps!


gj117974 (author)2016-03-24

Rich, I like the idea of this project for a STEM and class demonstration, but I have to ask a simple question. I have both fiesta-wear, but would really like to use my collection of button sources. Do you think using higher rated sources, such as Cs-137 or Co-60 1 - 100 micro-curie sources, saturate the given construction?

nothinglabs (author)gj1179742016-03-29

Hey there - sorry for slow response..

Yes - I suspect those sources may overload the chamber - but there's an easy solution....

I'd just put the sources outside / near the chamber. You probably won't see any alpha - but should see beta / the effects of gamma.

Good luck!

PaulQuast (author)2016-03-03

Hi, I have built a cloud chamber into an insulated wall clock with a perspex outer clock face/ surface. My query is in regards to the static component; The perspex face retains an ample static charge within the material itself and the chamber is approx. 4cm deep. Is this sufficient (with occasional recharging) to keep the atmosphere clear of dust and ions for better ion trails within the super saturated alcohol layer or will I need to implement another feature for this application? I have never been clear on the static component of this chamber and wish to avail of your expertise!

Also, is there any source (other than the Ebay connection) that sells the 12710 168W Peltier cooler modules?

nothinglabs (author)PaulQuast2016-03-08

Hi Paul. I've always found the static element of cloud Chambers to be somewhat black magic. I know some people had good luck implementing high voltage sources although I've always favored periodic use of a balloon rubbed over hair or fabric - mainly due to the simplicity.

For more info on high voltage sources you may want to look up information on wilsonian cloud chambers online.

I don't have a specific source of single stage pelier coolers is that I favor. For dual stage peltier coolers I've always had good luck with custom thermoelectric as mentioned in the instructable.

My general advice on finding shelter foolers is to try to be flexible - a 12010, 1209 or 12708 can work for the top stage the key thing is using a lower value for the bottom of page. Coolers may also be listed by their wattage / amperage at given voltage as opposed to the typical numbering scheme. The key thing is to dig into the specs little and try to get a sense of what you're getting.

Good luck!

mmagistro (author)nothinglabs2016-03-10

I saw a post on youtube in which a cloud chamber static charge is built up using an electric bug swatter. Create a screen grid inside your chamber above the cooler. Run the ground to the bottom cooler plate and you'll get a few thousand static volts every time you push the button.

mmagistro (author)2016-02-17

Good day and thank you for these great plans. I'm running into my coolers not getting cold enough and I'm wondering if it's my cooling system. I'm using a water cooled system that seems to be working well, but the water does eventually get warm (45C) after 10-15mins. Perhaps this is not sufficient? I've got a 400w ATX supply with 5v and 12v setup correctly. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

nothinglabs (author)mmagistro2016-02-21

Hi there! Yes - it sounds like your cooling system isn't quite keeping up. It's hard for me to offer any scientific insight as there's a lot of variables involved. However - I will say that modern CPU coolers with heat pipes are profoundly effective at getting heat off of a surface.

I've played with some homemade water cooling approaches and have found it hard to get good performance.

One thing you might try is either I clean the water out with fresh tap water to keep the temperature down or alternately try adding some ice cubes to see if that helps.

Good luck!

Geraldg20 (author)nothinglabs2016-03-06

I built one following the directions exactly, and I'm having the same issue, I can only get the temp down to -7C. My water cooling is definitely working as it starts to get warm after a few minutes, but I wonder what you mean by it may not be keeping up. Is there a way to test that it's not keeping up?

I've looked at the datasheets for the peltier coolers and they say that the 12710 runs at 15-17 Volts, and the 12709 runs at 15 Volts.

With the top peltier running at 5V and 2.5 Amps, the power consumption is only 12.5 Watts, compared to its max of 138 Watts. Could this be the problem that I need to fix, or am I missing somthing?

Thanks for your help!!

nothinglabs (author)Geraldg202016-03-09

So - cheap cpu coolers using heatpipes are very efficient. My main advice is to try a cpu cooler as described in instructions before trying any homebrew cooling approaches.

Good luck!


mmagistro (author)nothinglabs2016-03-10

Thank you for the information Rich. I agree that the aluminium cooler block heat sink isnt big enough to remove a sufficient amount of heat from the cooler which is why I'm not getting low enough temps. Maybe a cooler block thats 2-2.5 inches thick might be able to maintain a lower temp, or perhaps more flow from a second pump might move enough heat, but at that point a copper cooler sink is much more practical. Thanks again!

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi, I'm Rich Olson ( I sell cloud chambers for viewing radiation, make robots and dev software. If you need something prototyped - I ... More »
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