Radiation: Alpha and Beta paricles

Facts and Information about Radiation Exposure The Energy Collective,
Willem Post   19 March 2011

Elements that contain unstable nuclei are radioactive; they are
called radionuclides. They decay by releasing mostly alpha and beta
particles accompanied by gamma rays

. An alpha particle has low-energy, is positively charged and consists
of two protons and two neutrons, i.e., a helium atom without its 2
electrons; it can be stopped by tissue paper or human skin.

A beta particle is a high-energy, negatively charged electron
(negatron) or a positively charged positron; it can be stopped by a
sheet of aluminum. Gamma rays are high energy, short-wavelength,
electromagnetic radiation; they can be stopped by concrete or lead.The
energy released by radionuclides may knock electrons out of their
orbits around an atom’s nucleus. This process is called ionizing
radiation. Ionizing radiation damages living tissues, leads to changes
in constituents of the cell, including the DNA of chromosomes, and
results in changes in structure and function of the cells and organ
systems. Understanding the potential for ionizing radiation to effect
changes to living tissues requires knowing how much radioactive energy
is absorbed by the tissues.

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