P6 - Radioactivity

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  • Created by: 11mbrady
  • Created on: 16-04-16 13:18



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Every atom of a particluar element has the same number of protons in its nucleus, however the number of NEUTRONS isnt fixed.

Isotopes = Atoms with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons

Example: There are 2 common isotopes of carbon (carbon - 14 has two more neuutrons than 'normal' carbon which is carbon-12)

Usually each element only has one or two instable isotopes (like carbon-12)

The other isotopes tend to be radioactve because the nucleus is unstable so it decays (break down) and emits radiation (Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon)

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Radioactive elements

Some elements emit ionising radiation so they are radioactive elements

Radioactive atoms are unstable - they break up (decay) to make themselves more stable

Unstable atoms decay at random and you can't predict when it will happen because its completely unaffected by physical processes (temperature, chemical bonding etc)

When an atom does decay it spits out one or more of three types of ioning radiation - alpha, beta, gamma

During this process, the atom often turns into a new element

Ionising radiation can transfer enough energy to break an atom or molecule  into  ions

Ionisaton = When theres enough energy to break an atom/molecule into ions

These ions can then go on to take part in other chemical reactions

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