Radioactive Decay

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Unit 5 WA1 Kim Phillips Radioactive decay rates are normally stated in terms of their half-lives, and the half-life of a given nuclear species is related to its radiation risk. The different types of radioactivity lead to different decay paths which transmute the nuclei into other chemical elements. Examining the amounts of the decay products makes possible radioactive dating. Though the most massive and most energetic of radioactive emissions, the alpha particle is the shortest in range because of its strong interaction with matter. The electromagnetic gamma ray is extremely penetrating, even penetrating considerable thicknesses of concrete. The electron of beta radioactivity strongly interacts with matter and has a short range. The reason alpha decay occurs is because the nucleus has too many protons which cause excessive repulsion. In an attempt to reduce the repulsion, a Helium nucleus is emitted. The way it works is that the Helium nuclei are in constant collision with the walls of the nucleus and because of its energy and mass; there exists a nonzero probability of transmission. That is, an alpha particle will tunnel out of the nucleus. Beta decay occurs when the neutron to proton ratio is too great in the nucleus and causes instability. In basic beta decay, a neutron is turned into a proton and an electron. The electron is then emitted. Gamma decay occurs because the nucleus is at too high an energy. The nucleus falls down to a lower energy state and, in the process, emits a high energy photon known as a gamma particle.…...

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