BTEC physics brief 2

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Syed Afjal Ali 11T Science (BTEC) 04/05/12
Radioactive substance:
An example of a radioactive substance is plutonium. Radio
active substances are the most unstable elements due to the fact that it cannot control its protons,
neutrons and electrons. As these are unstable they emanate radiations in the form of alpha, beta and
gamma particles.
Three forms of ionising radiation:
Alpha particle: The alpha particles penetration power is weak due to the fact that it is easily
stopped by a few pieces of paper. An alpha particle is the same as the nucleus of a helium
atom. This means that it consists of 2 neutrons and protons. It also has a positive charge. As
the alpha particle has the most mass of the three forms of ionised radiation, this means that it
is most likely to collide with other atoms, meaning that alpha particles have the least
penetrating ability and are easily absorbed by paper, skin or a few centimetres of air. Alpha
particles are also the most ionising of the three types of radiation. Alpha particles are likely
to be emitted during the decay of heavy nuclei which have a large number of protons and
Beta particle: The beta particles penetration power is moderate due to the fact that it can
surpass the penetration power of the alpha particle and penetrate paper; however it is
stopped by aluminium. A beta particle is the same as an electron. It is often called a high
energy electron because it is very fast moving. A beta particle comes from the nucleus of an
atom. It has a charge of -1 and very little mass. Beta particles have more penetrating ability

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Syed Afjal Ali 11T Science (BTEC) 04/05/12
than a-particles but may be absorbed by a few millimetres of aluminium. Beta particles are
less ionising than alpha particles but more ionising than gamma rays.
Gamma rays: The gamma rays penetration power out does the penetration power of beta
or alpha due to the fact that gamma rays can penetrate paper and aluminium easily, but is
stopped by many centimetres of lead and a few metres of concrete. A gamma ray is an
electromagnetic wave.…read more


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