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The feasibility of superconducting strips as position‐sensitive detectors for α particles was investigated. For this purpose films have been prepared of different materials and dimensions using standard evaporation and laser ablation in an UHV system. Films were patterned into strips and current‐biased strips were irradiated with 5.5 MeV α particles. The energy deposited by the particle in the strip creates a normal‐conducting region, which in turn causes a voltage drop. The time evolution of the voltage drop across the strip as a function of bath temperature and bias current has been investigated. Information about the site of the strip hit by the α particle was obtained from monitoring the propagating normal‐conducting zones. A lateral position sensitivity of ±30 μm for a tantalum strip detector has been achieved. The propagation of normal‐state zones in the strip cannot provide information on the energy of the particle. A model describing the time evolution of a normal‐conducting zone in a current‐biased superconducting strip was used to test and interpret the experimental results and allows one to estimate the thermal conductivity of the strip material and the heat transfer from the strip into the substrate. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.