Nuclear Radiations

  • Nuclear Radiation
  • Radioactivity
  • Different types and uses of radiation
  • Penetrating power
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  • Created by: natalie27
  • Created on: 16-03-14 16:41

P2 - Types of radiation

Radioactive materials - substances that give our nuclear radiation.

Nuclear radiation - used in medical treatments such as Radiotherapy to cure cancer. - Nuclear radiation can kill the cancer cells - can also kill healthy cells.

Radioactivity - change in structure of radioactive atom and the release of one of the three types of nuclear radiation: 

    • alpha ((
    • beta ((
    • gamma ((

Nuclear radiation can cause ionisation, producing postively and negatively charged ions when atoms gain or lose electrons. Ionisation can be harmful inside the body - damages cells and can initiate chemical reactions by breaking molecular bonds.

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Alpha Radiation


  • smoke detectors - contain americium-241 - emits alpha radiation. The emitted alpha particles cause the ionisation of air particles. The positive and negative ions formed are attracted to oppositely charged electrodes in the detector -> current flowing in the circuit. 

Smoke enters -> less ionisation -> alpha particles absorbed by smoke particles -> smaller current flows -> alarm sounds

Alpha radiation:

  • strong ionising power
  • absorbed by a few cm of air or a thin sheet of paper
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Beta Radiation


 Tracers - a beta-emitter tracer can be used for:

  • Detecting tumours in certain parts of a patient's body - i.e. brain, lungs
  • To identify plants that have been fed with a fertiliser containing a beta particle emitter (can be used to develop better fertilisers)
  • In a paper thickness gauge - if paper thickness is too great, more beta radiation is absorbed and less passes through to the detector. A signal is then sent to the rollers to move closer together, which reduces the thickness of the paper.

Beta Radiation:

  • Reasonable ionising power
  • Passes through air and paper - absorbed/stopped by a few mm of aluminium
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Gamma Radiation


  • To treat cancer - destroys cancerous cells.
  • To sterilise medical equipment - destroys microorganisms. No heat required - minimises damage.
  • Non-destructive tests can be carried out on welds - any cracks or defects the rays can get through

Gamma radiation

  • Very penetrating, needs many centimetres of lead or many metres of concrete to absorb most of it.
  • Poor ionising power
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