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Electronics science fair project:
Build a crystal radio and see if it is possible to hear aliens with the radio

Science Fair Project Information
Title: Build a crystal radio, listen to radio stations and see if it is possible to hear aliens with the radio
Subject: Electronics
Subcategory: Crystal Rodio
Grade level: Elementary School - Grades 4-6
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Engineering
Cost: Low
Awards: 1st place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair ($100)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (VSF)
Year: 2014
Materials: Tin foil, 15 meters of wire covered with plastic, alligator clips, diode, electrical socket
Concepts: AM modulation
Description: Building a simple crystal radio and exploring the effect of changing the antenna’s condition on the radio’s reception; the effect of what happens when the ground is disconnected; the relationship between the capacitor and the coil; the sensitivity of wiper tuning
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2014/bowe14e
Short Background

Crystal Radio

A crystal radio receiver is a very simple radio receiver, popular in the early days of radio. It needs no battery or power source and runs on the power received from radio waves by a long wire antenna. It gets its name from its most important component, known as a crystal detector, originally made with a piece of crystalline mineral such as galena. This component is now called a diode.

Crystal radios are the simplest type of radio receiver and can be handmade with a few inexpensive parts, like an antenna wire, tuning coil of copper wire, capacitor, crystal detector and earphones. They are distinct from ordinary radios because they are passive receivers, while other radios use a separate source of electric power such as a battery or the mains power to amplify the weak radio signal from the antenna so it is louder. Thus crystal sets produce rather weak sound and must be listened to with sensitive earphones, and can only pick up stations within a limited range.

Crystal detectors were developed and applied to radio receivers in 1904 by Jagadish Chandra Bose, G. W. Pickard and others. Crystal radios were the first widely used type of radio receiver, and the main type used during the wireless telegraphy era. Sold and homemade by the millions, the inexpensive and reliable crystal radio was a major driving force in the introduction of radio to the public, contributing to the development of radio as an entertainment medium around 1920.

After about 1920, crystal sets were superseded by the first amplifying receivers, which used vacuum tubes (Audions), and became obsolete for commercial use. However they continued to be built by hobbyists, youth groups and the Boy Scouts as a way of learning about the technology of radio. Today they are still sold as educational devices, and there are groups of enthusiasts devoted to their construction who hold competitions comparing the performance of their home-built designs.

Crystal radios can be designed to receive almost any radio frequency band, but most receive the AM broadcast band. By the nature of their operation, crystal radios can only demodulate amplitude modulation (AM) signals, and not frequency modulation (FM) or digital signals.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_radio

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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Last updated: August 2014
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