2.3.4 Rutherford Scattering

This experiment can be suitably performed using a vacuum chamber in which are placed an  source (presently 95Am241), a gold foil target, and a detector. Surface Barrier detectors provide excellent detection of the scattered particles. High counting rates are readily achieved so that many measurements may be carried out in a relatively short time.

Some of the properties of Rutherford scattering that can be studied are:

  1. The angular dependence of the number of scattered particles. Does this depend on the Z of the target?
  2. Kinematics of elastic scattering. What is the angular dependence of the energy of the scattered particles? Does this depend on the Z of the target? Several targets may be mounted in the scattering chamber at once.
  3. The magnitude of the absolute cross section. What happens if you rotate the target? How would you propose measurement of the target thickness?
  4. The apparatus may also be used to measure the stopping power for 's in various non-reactive gases.


  1. E. Rutherford, "The Scattering of  and  Particles by Matter and the Strucuture of the Atom," Philos. Mag. 21, 669 (1911 ). The is the original report of Rutherford's ideas about the implications of the large angle scattering observed by Geiger and Marsden. 
  2. H. Geiger and E. Marsden, "On the Diffuse Reflection of the -Particles," Proc. Roy. Soc. (London) 82, 495 (1909). Scattered alphas counted by eye with a microscope and a fluorescent screen of ZnS.
  3. H. Geiger, "The Scattering of the -Particles by Matter," Proc. Roy. Soc. (London) 83, 492 (1910). Companion to reference above.
  4. J. J. Thomson, Philos. Mag. 44, 293 (1897). This was the competing theory at the time which attempted to account for the scattering as a series of multiple scattering events from a cloud of postive charge.
  5. A. C. Melissinos, Experiments in Modern Physics, New York: Academic Press (1966). This book as an excellent description of the apparatus and data from a simple Rutherford scattering experiment, very much like our own except we use a solid-state detector. QC33.M52.
  6. J. A. Earl, "Modified Version of the MIT Rutherford Scattering Apparatus for Use in Advanced Undergraduate Laboratories", Am. J. Phys. 34, 483 (1966).
  7. E. J. Burge, V. R. W. Edwards, V. E. Lewis, and N. K. Ganguly, "Optimum Design of Student Experiments on Rutherford Scattering", Am. J. Phys. 36, 351 (1968).
  8. J. L. Duggan, W. D. Adams, R. J. Scroggs, and L. S. Anthony, "Charged-Particle Detection Experiments for the Modern Physics Laboratory". Am. J. Phys. 35, 631 (1969).
  9. J. C. Ramage, J. McKeown, and K. W. D. Ledingham, "A Convincing Demonstration of the Rutherford csc3#3 Law," Am. J. Phys. 43, 51 (1975). Discusses data set obtained with a Si detector including the necessary corrections.
  10. G. C. Kyker, "Resolving Time Effect on Counting Statistics", Am. J. Phys. 49, 561 (1981).
  11. L. D. Northcliffe and R. F. Schilling, "Range and Stopping Power Tables for Heavy Ions", Nuclear Data Tables 7, 233 (1970). A thorough review of stopping power of charged particles in gases and solids with tables.  QC173.N78 in ENGR STOR(age)    *
  12. J. B. Marion and B. A. Zimmerman, "Multiple Scattering of Charged Particles", Nucl. Instrum. Methods 51, 93 (1967).
  13. P. J. Ouseph and A. Mostovych, "An Experiment to Measure Range, Range Straggling, Stopping Power, and Energy Straggling of Alpha Particles in Air", Am. J. Phys. 46, 742 (1978).
  14. J. F. Ziegler and V. Littmark, Handbook of Stopping Cross-sections for Energetic Ions in All Elements, New York: Pergamon Press, 1980. QC 702.Z53.
  15. J. F. Ziegler, The Stopping and Range of Ions in Solids, New York: Pergamon Press, 1985. QC794.S8Z534.
  16. W. J. Price, Principles of Radiation Detection, New York: McGraw-Hill Co., 1964. QC787.C6P7.
  17. G. Dearnaley and D. C. Northrop, Semiconductor Counters for Nuclear Radiations, London: Spon (1963). QC787.C6D4.
  18. The Whys and Wherefores of Charged Particle Detector Spectrometry (1985)

* Missing from archive 6/00


Go to Top 
Laboratory Coordinator 
Go to the Handbook Table of Contents 
Dept. of Physics, Univ. of MD


This page was maintained by the Laboratory Staff.

For queries regarding: