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Radioactivity is the spontaneous emission of alpha particles, beta particles and / or gamma rays by an

unstable nucleus to become stable. There are three common types of emissions: <!--[if !supportLists]-->i. <!--[endif]-->Alpha particles <!--[if !supportLists]-->ii. <!--[endif]-->Beta particle, and <!--[if !supportLists]-->iii. <!--[endif]-->Gamma rays. In an alpha decay, the nucleus emits an alpha particle. An alpha particle is a helium nucleus, made up of two protons and two neutrons. In beta decay, the nucleus emits a beta particle. A beta particle is a fast moving electron. In gamma decay, the nucleus emits gamma rays. Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation of very high frequency. Radioactivity detectors that work because of the ionizing ability of the radiations are : Geiger- Muller tube (G-M tube) Electroscope Spark counter Cloud chamber They can be used to differentiate between alpha, beta and gamma radiations. The nature of radioactivity was discovered by husband and wife scientists, Marie Curie (1867-1934) and Pierre Curie (1859- 1906).

<!--[if !vml]--> Cloud chamber


The track patterns formed in the cloud chamber can be used to differentiate between alpha, beta and gamma radiations. Alpha radiation produces thick, straight tracks. The tracks are thick because of their high ionizing ability. Straight tracks are due to their large mass, making alpha particle difficult to deflect (high inertial). Beta radiation produces thin; twisted tracks. The thin twisted tracks are due to the weak ionizing ability of the beta particle. Twisted tracks are due to their small mass, making beta particles easier to deflect. Gamma radiation produces short, thin and scattered tracks. This is due to the extremely weak ionizing ability of gamma rays.

Spark counter

When a radioactive source which produces alpha particles is brought near, the air between the gauze and the wire is ionized by it.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Radioactive Emissions
Properties of radioactive emissions:

A) Structure and Charge

1. Alpha particle an alpha particle is the nucleus of helium atom and made up of two protons and two neutrons. it is positively charged (+2).

2. Beta particle A beta particle is a fast moving electron and has a negative charge (-1).

3. Gamma ray Gamma ray is an electromagnetic wave; it moves at the speed of light, c ( 3x10^8 m/s). Gamma ray does not carry any charge.

Alpha and beta particles have opposite charges, thus they are deflected in opposite directions. Gamma ray is neutral , thus it is not deflected by the magnetic field.

B) Ionising Power and Penetrating Power

Alpha particle have a relatively high ionising power and hence a relatively low penetrating power. on the other hand, gamma ray which has a relatively low ioning power has a realatively high penetrating power.

alpha particles can be stopped by a piece of paper, beta particles are stopped by a few centimetres aluminum sheets, while gamma ray can only be stopped by a few centimetres of lead.

Particles that ionise other atoms strongly have a low penetrating power because they lose energy each time they ioning an atom.

Spontaneous radioactive emissions are not affected by external conditions like temperature and pressure.