Before understanding the background of alpha decay, we need to answer a few basic questions like what is alpha decay, what is radioactive decay, types of radioactive decay and the properties of these radioactive decay. In this article, the concepts are explained in a question-answer pattern so as to make understanding easier. So let’s get started.
What is radioactive decay?
Radioactive decay is also known as radioactivity, nuclear decay or nuclear radiation. It is defined as the property displayed by certain types of matter which emit energy and subatomic particles. These particles are emitted when strong forces are acted upon the nucleus. Radioactivity is explained by the half-life of the atom.
What are the different types of radioactivity?
There are mainly three types of radioactivity and they are as follows:
- Alpha decay: During this radioactivity, an atomic nucleus emits alpha particles. An example of alpha decay is an atom of uranium becoming an atom of thorium during alpha decay.
- Beta decay: During this radioactivity, unstable atoms become stable. Beta decay is further classified as beta-minus and beta-plus.
- Gamma decay: During this radioactivity, there is a change in nucleus energy from a higher level to a lower level by emitting electromagnetic radiation.
What are the properties of alpha decay?
During alpha decay, the helium nucleus is emitted. The nucleus is composed of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. They are highly ionizing and are affected by the electric and magnetic fields. But the drawback of alpha decay is that they are not penetrating. When an atom is near to alpha particle, the electrons are pulled out of the atom as the alpha particles are a positive charge.
What are the properties of beta decay?
The electrons released through beta particles are of high energy. The magnetic and electric fields affect the beta particles. They are fairly penetrating and ionizing when compared to alpha particles.
What are the properties of gamma decay?
The gamma particles are high in electromagnetic radiation. They are very penetrating and weakly ionizing when compared to the other two decays. Unlike alpha and beta particles, gamma particles are not affected by the electric and magnetic field.
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