Introduction to Radiation and Decay

Types of Radiation

alpha (𝛼)

> can barely penetrate a piece of paper

beta (ꞵ)

> can penetrate aluminum to a depth of about 3 mm and no further

gamma (𝛾)

> can penetrate lead to a depth of 2 or more cm

> most dangerous type of radiation

Types of Decay

Alpha Decay

In 𝛼-decay, the nucleus loses 2 protons and 4 neutrons.

** since in 𝛼-decay protons of the original element are lost, a new element is created in the reaction **

Beta Decay

In ꞵ-decay, the mass stays the same but a neutron becomes a proton to release energy and a high energy electron is created.

** since in ꞵ-decay more protons are added to the original element, a new element is created in the reaction **

Gamma Decay

In 𝛾-decay, the mass again does not change. Overall gamma decay does not have much of an effect.


Libretexts. “17.3: Types of Radioactivity: Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay.” Chemistry LibreTexts, Libretexts, 26 Jan. 2021,

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