HW due 9/16

Radioactive decay is the decay of unsteady nuclei that results in different energetic particles being released.  The three types of radioactive decay are classified as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.

Alpha particles (have a positive charge): Alpha particles are helium nuclei made of two protons and two neutrons that curve in one direction.  These particles can be stopped by a piece of paper.   The chance of Alpha particle radioactive decay happening is very slim, but it belongs under the idea that if it “can happen, it will happen”.  How it works is that if two protons and two neutrons manage to escape the nucleus, at the same time, the particle is free of the strong residual force that held it inside the nucleus, and the particle is likely to release the built up tension and spring away from the atom.

Beta particles (have a negative charge): Beta particles are speedy electrons that curve in the opposite direction of the Alpha particles.  These particles can be stopped by aluminum foil.  Beta decay occurs in two different situations in the nucleus: when there are too many neutrons to protons and when there are too few neutrons to protons.  Each of these situations causes instability in the nucleus, and the result is radioactive decay.  In Beta decay where there are too many neutrons, a neutron is turned into an electron and proton, and the electron is emitted.  There are two different situations for when there are too few neutrons to protons.  The first is when a proton turns into a neutron and a positron, emitting the positron.  The second is when a nucleus captures an electron, which turns a proton into a neutron.  Beta decay is the type of radioactive decay that usually includes the emission of neutrinos and antineutrinos.

Gamma radiation (has a neutral charge): Gamma radiation is made of high energy photons that don’t curve in the magnetic field.  These particles can be stopped by a block of lead.  Gamma Radiation is also the most dangerous out of all the radioactive decays.  Gamma radioactive decay is when a nucleus has too much energy, so it drops down to a lower level and emits a photon (in the form of a gamma ray usually).

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