500 microcuries of polonium-210 is the
active ingredient in NRD Staticmaster
static control brushes. Now that's a hot
Without a doubt the most intense alpha radiation source available to the general public, NRD's Staticmaster static-conrol brush elements contain artificially-produced Po-210. The isotope is sealed into rectangular foils that each initially carry 250 microcuries. Brush elements are sold in two sizes. The smaller only contains a single source foil. The larger, pictured above, sports two.
A person only interested in the radioactivity need not purchase the whole brush. Replacement polonium cartriges--which fit onto the brush itself--are retailed by a variety of dealers on the Internet. Try SPI Supplies or Warehouse Photo. Replacements are periodically necessary because Po-210 has a half-life of only 138 days.
With an item this profoundly radioactive, interesting demonstrations are possible. For example, currents of several nanoamperes will flow through a open air parallel-plate capacitor having a potential difference of under 100 volts when the Staticmaster is placed inside. Holding a Staticmaster against any number of glow-in-the-dark toys, or the glow-in-the-dark paints sold in Wal-Mart or hobby stores, will create a brilliant image of the polonium sources (you can see the shadows cast by the protective metal grill over the source foils). And, of course, the dense ionization near the Staticmaster can be used to neutralize the buildup of static electricity on photographic film, Scotch tape, phonograph records, etc. (Whatever you do, DO NOT abuse the physical integrity of the sealed sources. Po-210 is a dangerous inhalation and ingestion hazard!)