The Effect of Water Depth on Time of Flight of Cosmic Ray Muons

The Effect of Water Depth on Time of Flight of Cosmic Ray Muons 
Deven Misra (Canton High School), Max Tomaszewski (Eisenhower High School) 
Michael Niedballa (Wayne State University) 
Robert Harr (Wayne State University) 
In our experiment, we attempted to establish a link between the depth of water which a muon passes through, and the time it takes that muon to travel between two detectors. We accomplished this by placing bins of water between two cosmic ray detectors and measuring the time of flight of muons passing through both detectors. The results of our experiment were inconclusive in that we did not find a precise correlation between depth of water and time of flight, but we did determine that the water did increase the time of flight to varying degrees. While we were unable to find an exact correlation, we believe that the connection between water depth and time of flight can be quantified, and reflects an inverse relationship between the two variables. This establishes that muons are, in fact, affected by the materials which they pass through in some capacity, with water appearing to have a significant effect.

The Effect of the Thickness of Aluminum on the Speed of Muons

The Effect of the Thickness of Aluminum on the Speed of Muons

Nathan Frazier (Cousino High School/ MMSTC), Seth Hall (International Academy of Macomb)

Mike Niedballa (Wayne State University)

Gil Paz (Wayne State University)



            The purpose of this experiment was to test the effect that different thicknesses of aluminum would play on the speed of muons. Prior experiments proved that with more aluminum shielding the flux of muons will decrease. Our experiment furthers this research. It is hypothesized that the thicker the aluminum is between the paddles, the slower the muons will travel.



            The method to this experiment is to run a time of flight study on the muons. The coincidence was set to two paddles one on top and one on the bottom (2.2 meters apart). First control data was collected without aluminum between the paddles. We then placed 77mm of aluminum between the paddles and collected data. Next 123mm, 225mm, and 300mm of aluminum were all placed between the paddles. Each collection of data was ran for at least 4 hours. The average time a muon was calculated given the certain amount of aluminum between the paddles. Our data from each thickness trial was graphed and a regression was fit to the data with the slope being the speed.





            Our data shows a direct relationship between the thickness of aluminum and the speed lost. There are some points that are far from the line but the r squared value is close to 1 so are data does fit the line of regression well.


Meaning of Data


            Our data shows that there is a difference in speeds between the different thicknesses of aluminum because our p value of 0.0518 is so close to our alpha level of 0.05. Since we determined that there is a strong chance of the speeds being different, we ran some linear regression t-tests (one with the difference in speeds and one with the percent of the speed of light). The p-values for these two tests are both roughly 0.00674 which is less than the alpha level, so we can reject our null hypothesizes that there is no strong linear correlation. The slopes of these regression lines told us that, on average, for every millimeter of aluminum added the muons will slow 64525.5 m/s or 0.02% the speed of light. Since there was a difference in the speeds and it did follow a linear model, we accepted our hypothesis.


Suggestions for further Research


In future studies we can use bigger thicknesses to see if this linear trend continues and we can also try different materials to see if they slow down the muons at different rates.


Measuring Muon Flux as a Dependent on Barometric Pressure

Measuring Muon Flux as a Dependent on Barometric Pressure 
Bryan Wegrzyn (Henry Ford II High School), Ian Homsy (University Liggett School)  
Mike Niedballa (Wayne State University) 
Gil Paz (Wayne State University) 
The purpose of our research is to determine whether muon flux is affected by 
change in barometric pressure. We chose to do this experiment after we couldn’t find 
many papers about it on the Cosmic e-lab website and after realizing that the Data 
Acquisition Board (DAQ) had a built in barometer. We hypothesized that as we saw the 
pressure go up, we would see the rate of muon flux go down. We theorised this as 
higher air pressure is associated with higher air density which would cause more muons 
to hit particles in the air. We set up the experiment by first stacking two counters right on 
top of one another. The barometer on the DAQ was then calibrated and testing began. 
We usually ran tests twice a day, once from morning till evening and then another 
overnight. In all we collected 644 data points of flux recordings which were taken every 
ten minutes. We then synced the data points from the flux test with the blessing chart of 
the barometric pressure and documented them in a spreadsheet.
Graphing these points we came up with an equation of y=-1.375x+10119 with an R​2​ value of 0.0018.
While the negative slope agreed with our prediction, we weren’t certain our data was signifcant. 
An ANOVA test was then done to look at variance among the flux at each barometric 
pressure recorded. This test returned a p value of 0.376 and an F and critical F of 1.08 
and 1.80 respectively. Because the p value was higher the set value of 0.05 and the F 
was smaller than the critical F, we concluded that our study yielded no significant 
relationship between flux and barometric pressure. This, however does not mean that 
there isn’t one. If further time was allotted it would be possible to collect even more data 
points and to track a greater range of pressures allowing for a more full look into the 
possibility of a relationship. 

The Effect of Aluminum Shielding on Cosmic Ray Muon Flux

The Effect of Aluminum Shielding on Cosmic Ray Muon Flux

Adam Ross (De La Salle Collegiate High School), Jill  Schell (Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center)

Mike Niedballa (Wayne State University)

Dr. Gil Paz (Wayne State University)


            The experiment was performed to determine the effect of various thicknesses of aluminum as a shield against cosmic ray muons. This test added to and expanded on research done that shows the effect of other metals as shields against the same rays. This study was conducted using four cosmic ray muon detectors set up in pairs, with each pair one meter apart. Multiple trials were conducted, gradually increasing the amount of aluminum between the pairs of detectors. After running multiple tests, the value of the flux had a clear but small decrease as the thickness of aluminum was increased. Also, the amount of aluminum was shown to have a decreasing linear relationship with the muon flux. With the data that was collected, the researchers were able to conclude that the greater amount of aluminum present, the smaller the muon flux. This finding also leads to the conclusion that aluminum can act as a weak shield against the cosmic ray muons. This research could be furthered with greater quantities of aluminum to determine, with greater accuracy, when the flux would near zero. Also, this research, combined with outside research about the shielding effects of other materials and metals, could create a better understanding of the effect of density on muon shielding, and help better determine which material has the greatest shielding effect, and for what reasons shielding is effective.

The Effect of Water Depth on Muon Flux

The Effect of Water Depth on Muon Flux

Grace Gutierrez (Roosevelt High School), Finsam Samson (Troy High School)

Mike Niedballa (Wayne State University)

Gil Paz (Wayne State University)



This study was conducted to analyze the effect of water depth on muon flux. It built upon other research in this field, using larger scales of depth than was done in previous studies. Our hypothesis is that increasing the depth of the water that muons have to travel through will decrease the flux of the muons at the bottom, as the muons can be slowed and stopped by interacting with water molecules.



In this study, 3 large plastic bins with a maximum depth of 26 centimeters each were used. Four detector plates set in a column with a four-fold coincidence were used with these bins. The arrangement of these were as so (from top to bottom): plate, bin, plate, bin, plate, plate. Plateauing was conducted at first, and the four detector plates were calibrated accordingly. The study began with a control of 0 centimeter depth, and increased by 10 centimeters with every flux study conducted, until 70 centimeters. Two flux studies were run every day, with data collection running for at least 4 hours in each study.



              Our data shows an inverse relationship between muon flux and water depth. However, this relationship becomes unclear after .30 meters of water depth. The uncertainty is also graphed above. The depth of .40 meters had an uncertainty significantly larger than that of the other depths. One possible reason for this could be a power outage that occurred on the day that data was collected, as well as in subsequent days.


Meaning of the Data

              The collected data does support our hypothesis. In the first half of the experiment, muon flux decreased as depth increased, with low uncertainties. However, high uncertainties in the latter half of the experiment led to unclear results beyond .40 meters of depth.


Suggestions for Further Experimentation

              In future studies, efforts can be made to accurately collect the data from high values of depth. This is because it is unclear whether the relationship between muon flux and water depth is linear or exponential (decay). Additionally, other liquids could be tested as shielding to research the properties of substances that shield muons.


The Speed of Muons from Different Angles

The Speed of Muons from Different Angles

Anna Citko (Groves High School), Genevieve Yarema (Grosse Pointe South High School)

Mike Niedballa (Wayne State University)

Gil Paz (Wayne State University)


Cosmic rays are particles (mostly protons) that come from space and are traveling near the speed of light. When these particles enter our atmosphere, they can collide with atmospheric gases and shatter into many other particles, including muons, the focus of our study. When the particle shatters, the products can go in all different directions. We wanted to figure out if muons coming down perpendicular to the surface of the earth maintain more of their speed than muons coming in at an angle. We tested this by placing 4 muon detector paddles in a telescope which we were able to tilt at different angles. We took data at at vertical, 45 degrees, and horizontal angles and used a time of flight study with a coincidence of 4 to determine the speed of the muons from each angle. We found that muons are coming in at a slower speed at an angle than they are vertically, but we were limited in how much data we were able to collect, so further studies may be needed.


Lifetime of Muons and the Detector’s Orientation

Andrew Du (Cranbrook High), Mason Hinawi (Crestwood High)

Mike Niedballla (Wayne State University)

Gil Paz (Wayne State University)


The purpose of this lab is to investigate muons and find the best way to study muon lifetime with the Quarknet cosmic ray muon detector. We were specifically trying to determine which orientation would provide the most data in the least amount of time. There are three different orientations that we tested: lying flat horizontally, standing vertically on the long edge, and standing vertically on the short edge. We found substantial data correlating the position and amount of decays. Since our results show standing the detector up on its short edge allows for significant improvement this could be the new standard procedure for future QuarkNet students studying lifetime decay.

Effectiveness of Pulsers Exposed to Radiation


Teacher Name: Don Bennett (Atrisco Heritage High School)

Research Mentor: Sally Seidel (University of New Mexico)




The purpose of our research is to test devices created in the lab called pulsers.  Pulsers are circuit boards with L.E.D.s that emit a blue light.  The pulsers are intended to replicate the blue light produced by Cherenkov radiation and to be used to calibrate the detectors at CERN’s Hadron Collider.  We test the pulsers by having them exposed to gamma radiation at various intensities, and then compare their ability to perform at various voltages.    This is accomplished by attaching the pulsers to a power supply and placing them into a light-tight enclosure (which prevents any outside light from interfering with the measurement) along with a light detector.  We attach the pulser to an oscilloscope, and the oscilloscope displays the performance of the pulsar as we increase the voltage.  We record the data and compare the results to the unirradiated control as well as to others that were irradiated at different levels of exposure.   

The research is ongoing, so as of present it is too early to make a determination of the pulsers' ability to perform under radioactive conditions.  However, if our research concludes that the pulsers can perform, then they will be most beneficial to the research at CERN in calibrating their detectors.

2017 Annual Report


Fermilab: University of Chicago

Student Summer Research and Teacher Workshop Annual Report

The Fermilab/University of Chicago QuarkNet Center sponsored its annual student summer research and teacher workshop for its 11th year. The summer research began June 26th and went until August 4th. The three-day teacher workshop spanned from August 2nd to August 4th. This year’s summer activities included two co-mentor scientists, one mentor teacher, four high school students, (three juniors and one senior), and 16 physics teachers.  Teachers from the workshop primarily were from the suburbs west of Chicago, all having taught physics or will be teaching physics this upcoming year. We had a good spread in gender, age, and years of experience in the classroom.

The summer research was very rewarding for the students this year. One of the students worked individually, with a mentor scientist, while the other three students worked together, sharing a mentor scientist.  The students conducted research in the projects of areas of the ICARUS Neutrino Detector, and the South Pole Telescope detecting Cosmic Microwave Background.  During the week, the students had the opportunity to attend lectures by well-known scientists as well as go on tours of the experiments. We conducted weekly lunch meetings on Mondays to keep up with the logistics and share the progress on the students’ experiments.  For the teacher workshop, the students prepared presentations on their experiment and experiences.  One of the groups integrated a demonstration of their work into their talk.  All of this went very well and we are extremely proud of their progress and accomplishments.

The teacher workshop was also a great success.  Teachers immersed themselves for three days at Fermilab experiencing a pilot of the QuarkNet Neutrino Master Class, conducted by Shane Woods.  They looked at the research projects done by our QuarkNet students, worked with scientists from Fermilab and toured the NuMI underground (MINOS, MINERvA and NOvA), and MC-1, (Muon/g-2).  Scientists included Anne Schukraft, “Introduction to Neutrinos”, and Angela Fava, “Particle Hunting, Why and How?”, Tom Carter, COD, and Brandon Eberly, SLAC.  The pilot of the Neutrino Master Class included a number of activities working towards the handling of data from research experiments.  Teachers developed plans for implementing higher levels of data collection, interpretation, and explanation. 

The Fermilab/University of Chicago QuarkNet Center continues to provide a quality research experience and educational workshop. Both teachers and students expressed their satisfaction.  

Lead Teacher: George Dzuricsko

2017 Abstract from Maggie, Maritza, and Joe

Quarknet Abstract: Joseph Carolan, Maggie Barclay, Maritza Gallegos
The ICARUS detector is a liquid argon TPC neutrino detector aiming to measure the oscillation of neutrino flavors on a short baseline. This summer we worked on creating a slow control system for the remote monitoring and operation of a power supply which provided a biasing electric potential across the anode wire planes in the ICARUS detector. In order to effectively monitor and set the necessary parameters, we developed a graphical and physical user interface. The graphical user interface, created in Control System Studios (CSS) functioned as a control room monitor and controller allowing the user to set and receive values on the power supply remotely. In order to create this interface we created a channel access client to access the necessary process variables from an Input Output Controller, then passed these values into python and javascript programs, allowing for an intuitive and interactive, yet heavy, interface. Implemented features include a safe incremental ramping of the voltage as well as email alerts and automatic data exportation. In contrast, the physical interface used an LED display to provide warnings and approximate values. This interface was created by wiring LED warning lights to GPIO pins on a Beaglebone Black, then creating python scripts utilizing a channel access support module to retrieve process variables. Although lightweight, this display was less interactive and required a separate web-based UI to readback specific values. By completing these clients, we aim to be able to supply power efficiently and safely to the anode wire plane of the ICARUS detector.