P2 6.6 Radioactivity at Work

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  • Radioactivity at Work
    • Alpha sources
      • Used in smoke alarms
      • Alpha particles are not dangerous as they are very poorly penetrating
      • Source needs a half-life of several years
    • Beta sources
      • Used for thickness monitoring in the manufacture of different materials
        • Paper
        • Metal foil
      • Need a half life of many years, so that decreases in count rate are due to changes in the thickness of the paper
    • Gamma and beta sources
      • Used as tracers in medicine
        • Injected or swallowed by the patient
      • Progress around the body is monitored by a detector
      • Needs a half-life of a few hours so that the patient is not exposed to unnecessary radioactivity
    • Radioactive dating
      • Used to find the age of ancient material
      • Carbon dating is used to find the age of wood and other organic material
      • Uranium dating is used to find the age of igneous rocks


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