Types of Radiation

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Alpha Particles

Alpha Particles

  • Helium nucleus
  • 2 protons, 2 neutrons
  •  2+ charge
  • Heavy and slow moving
  • Highly ionising
  • Weakly penetrating
  • Stopped by skin and a few cm of air
  • When an alpha particle is released, the atomic number decreases by 2 and the mass number decreases by 4
  • Due to their positive charge, they are able to deflect (change direction) by electric and magnetic fields
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Beta Particles

Beta Particles

  • Electron
  • 1/1800 mass
  • Negative charge
  • Small and fast
  •  Moderately ionising
  • Moderately penetrating
  • Stopped by paper or thin sheet of aluminium
  •  When a neutron turns into a proton and an electron, a beta particle is released from that same atom
  • When a beta particle is released, the atomic number increases by 1 but the mass number stays the same
  • Due to their negative charge, they deflect by electric and magnetic fields
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Gamma Rays

Gamma Rays

  • Electromagnetic radiation
  • Wave of energy
  • No mass or charge
  •  Weakly ionising
  • Highly penetrating
  • Stopped by thick lead and thick concrete
  • No effect on atomic or mass number after emitted
  • Happens after alpha or beta decay  - you never get just gamma rays emitted
  •  Excess energy in the nucleus is released as gamma radiation
  • No charge so cannot deflect by electric and magnetic fields
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