Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay

Definitions and Examples

Radioactivity Results from the Decay of an Unstable Nucleus

The nucleus has to remain stable, so in order to do so, the nucleus is split in three distinct ways.

The first form of radiation: Alpha

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Alpha Decay

Alpha radiation is the weakest of the three forms. Alpha's energy and penetration are considerable low. Alpha decay can't even surpass a piece of paper.

During alpha decay, the nucleus gives away two protons and two electrons, so when used to perform an equation involving alpha decay, you will use the symbol as shown below.

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The second form of radiation: Beta

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Beta Decay

The radioactive form of beta has a medium strength compared to the other two forms. Beta decay can pass throw about 3mm of aluminum.

During beta decay, a proton is converted into a neutron or vice versa. When using beta decay you will be seeing this symbol shown below.

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The final form of radiation: Gamma

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Gamma Decay

Gamma radiation is the strongest form, and can easily pass through several centimeters of lead.

Due to our modern understanding of gamma decay, we will later need to discuss two different types of beta decay in order to wrap our minds around it. But for now, in equations, gamma decay does not effect the particle at all; so the particle will remain the same. When using gamma in an equation you will see the symbol that's below.

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Thank you for reading!

I hope you found this quick review as an easy reminder to help you later on!