- Isotopes are different forms of the same element.
- Isotopes are atoms with the same number of protons in their nucleus, but a different number of neutrons.
- They have the same atomic number but different mass numbers.
- Most elements have different isotopes, but there's usually one or two stable ones.
- Other isotopes tend to be radioactive (carbon-14) which means they decay into other elements and give out radiation.
- This is where all radioactivity comes from- unstable radioactive isotopes undergoing nuclear decay and spitting out high energy particles or waves.
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- Unstable nuclei will decay and in the process give out ionising radiation. This process is totally random.
- When the nucleus does decay, it will spit out one or more out of three types of radiation- alpha, beta and gamma.
- In the process, the nucleus will often change into a new element.
- When an atom loses or gains an electron, it is turned into an ion. This is radiation.
- Alpha particles have a large positive charge. When an alpha particle passes close to an atom, it can pull a negatively charged electron out of orbit.
- Beta particles have a negative charge and push an electron out of orbit from an atom.
- Gamma rays can interact with the electrons orbiting the atom and transfer energy to them. If an electron gets enough energy, it can break free from the atom.
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