# 31.1 Nuclear radioactivity  (Page 4/12)

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## Collisions

Conservation of energy and momentum often results in energy transfer to a less massive object in a collision. This was discussed in detail in Work, Energy, and Energy Resources , for example.

Different types of radiation have different ranges when compared at the same energy and in the same material. Alphas have the shortest range, betas penetrate farther, and gammas have the greatest range. This is directly related to charge and speed of the particle or type of radiation. At a given energy, each $\alpha$ , $\beta$ , or $\gamma$ will produce the same number of ionizations in a material (each ionization requires a certain amount of energy on average). The more readily the particle produces ionization, the more quickly it will lose its energy. The effect of charge is as follows: The $\alpha$ has a charge of $+{2q}_{e}$ , the $\beta$ has a charge of $-{q}_{e}$ , and the $\gamma$ is uncharged. The electromagnetic force exerted by the $\alpha$ is thus twice as strong as that exerted by the $\beta$ and it is more likely to produce ionization. Although chargeless, the $\gamma$ does interact weakly because it is an electromagnetic wave, but it is less likely to produce ionization in any encounter. More quantitatively, the change in momentum $\Delta p$ given to a particle in the material is $\Delta p=F\Delta t$ , where $F$ is the force the $\alpha$ , $\beta$ , or $\gamma$ exerts over a time $\Delta t$ . The smaller the charge, the smaller is $F$ and the smaller is the momentum (and energy) lost. Since the speed of alphas is about 5% to 10% of the speed of light, classical (non-relativistic) formulas apply.

The speed at which they travel is the other major factor affecting the range of $\alpha$ s, $\beta$ s, and $\gamma$ s. The faster they move, the less time they spend in the vicinity of an atom or a molecule, and the less likely they are to interact. Since $\alpha$ s and $\beta$ s are particles with mass (helium nuclei and electrons, respectively), their energy is kinetic, given classically by $\frac{1}{2}{\text{mv}}^{2}$ . The mass of the $\beta$ particle is thousands of times less than that of the $\alpha$ s, so that $\beta$ s must travel much faster than $\alpha$ s to have the same energy. Since $\beta$ s move faster (most at relativistic speeds), they have less time to interact than $\alpha$ s. Gamma rays are photons, which must travel at the speed of light. They are even less likely to interact than a $\beta$ , since they spend even less time near a given atom (and they have no charge). The range of $\gamma$ s is thus greater than the range of $\beta$ s.

Alpha radiation from radioactive sources has a range much less than a millimeter of biological tissues, usually not enough to even penetrate the dead layers of our skin. On the other hand, the same $\alpha$ radiation can penetrate a few centimeters of air, so mere distance from a source prevents $\alpha$ radiation from reaching us. This makes $\alpha$ radiation relatively safe for our body compared to $\beta$ and $\gamma$ radiation. Typical $\beta$ radiation can penetrate a few millimeters of tissue or about a meter of air. Beta radiation is thus hazardous even when not ingested. The range of $\beta$ s in lead is about a millimeter, and so it is easy to store $\beta$ sources in lead radiation-proof containers. Gamma rays have a much greater range than either $\alpha$ s or $\beta$ s. In fact, if a given thickness of material, like a lead brick, absorbs 90% of the $\gamma$ s, then a second lead brick will only absorb 90% of what got through the first. Thus, $\gamma$ s do not have a well-defined range; we can only cut down the amount that gets through. Typically, $\gamma$ s can penetrate many meters of air, go right through our bodies, and are effectively shielded (that is, reduced in intensity to acceptable levels) by many centimeters of lead. One benefit of $\gamma$ s is that they can be used as radioactive tracers (see [link] ).

## Phet explorations: beta decay

Watch beta decay occur for a collection of nuclei or for an individual nucleus.

## Section summary

• Some nuclei are radioactive—they spontaneously decay destroying some part of their mass and emitting energetic rays, a process called nuclear radioactivity.
• Nuclear radiation, like x rays, is ionizing radiation, because energy sufficient to ionize matter is emitted in each decay.
• The range (or distance traveled in a material) of ionizing radiation is directly related to the charge of the emitted particle and its energy, with greater-charge and lower-energy particles having the shortest ranges.
• Radiation detectors are based directly or indirectly upon the ionization created by radiation, as are the effects of radiation on living and inert materials.

## Conceptual questions

Suppose the range for ray is known to be 2.0 mm in a certain material. Does this mean that every a ray that strikes this material travels 2.0 mm, or does the range have an average value with some statistical fluctuations in the distances traveled? Explain.

What is the difference between $\gamma$ rays and characteristic x rays? Is either necessarily more energetic than the other? Which can be the most energetic?

Ionizing radiation interacts with matter by scattering from electrons and nuclei in the substance. Based on the law of conservation of momentum and energy, explain why electrons tend to absorb more energy than nuclei in these interactions.

What characteristics of radioactivity show it to be nuclear in origin and not atomic?

What is the source of the energy emitted in radioactive decay? Identify an earlier conservation law, and describe how it was modified to take such processes into account.

Consider [link] . If an electric field is substituted for the magnetic field with positive charge instead of the north pole and negative charge instead of the south pole, in which directions will the $\alpha$ , $\beta$ , and $\gamma$ rays bend?

Explain how an $\alpha$ particle can have a larger range in air than a $\beta$ particle with the same energy in lead.

Arrange the following according to their ability to act as radiation shields, with the best first and worst last. Explain your ordering in terms of how radiation loses its energy in matter.

(a) A solid material with low density composed of low-mass atoms.

(b) A gas composed of high-mass atoms.

(c) A gas composed of low-mass atoms.

(d) A solid with high density composed of high-mass atoms.

Often, when people have to work around radioactive materials spills, we see them wearing white coveralls (usually a plastic material). What types of radiation (if any) do you think these suits protect the worker from, and how?

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An American traveler in New Zealand carries a transformer to convert New Zealand’s standard 240 V to 120 V so that she can use some small appliances on her trip.
What is the ratio of turns in the primary and secondary coils of her transformer?
nkombo
How electric lines and equipotential surface are mutually perpendicular?
The potential difference between any two points on the surface is zero that implies È.Ŕ=0, Where R is the distance between two different points &E= Electric field intensity. From which we have cos þ =0, where þ is the angle between the directions of field and distance line, as E andR are zero. Thus
sorry..E and R are non zero...
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Fayyaz
Myanmar
Pyae
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Iroko
hello
Abdu
Describe an experiment to determine short half life
what is science
it's a natural phenomena
Hassan
sap
Emmanuel
please can someone help me with explanations of wave
Benedine
there are seven basic type of wave radio waves, gyamma rays (nuclear energy), microwave,etc you can also search 🔍 on Google :-)
Shravasti
A 20MH coil has a resistance of 50 ohms and us connected in series with a capacitor to a 520MV supply
what is physics
it is the science which we used in our daily life
Sujitha
Physics is the branch of science that deals with the study of matter and the interactions it undergoes with energy
Junior
it is branch of science which deals with study of happening in the human life
AMIT
A 20MH coil has a resistance of 50 ohms and is connected in series with a capacitor to a 250MV supply if the circuit is to resonate at 100KHZ, Determine 1: the capacitance of the capacitor 2: the working voltage of the circuit, given that pie =3.142
Musa
Physics is the branch of science that deals with the study of matter and the interactions it undergoes with energy
Kelly
Heat is transfered by thermal contact but if it is transfered by conduction or radiation, is it possible to reach in thermal equilibrium?
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Astronomy
Yeah true ilwith d help of Adiabatic
Kelly
what are the fundamentals qualities
what is physic3
Kalilu
what is physic
Kalilu
Physics? Is a branch of science dealing with matter in relation to energy.
Moses
Physic... Is a purging medicine, which stimulates evacuation of the bowels.
Moses
are you asking for qualities or quantities?
Noman
fundamental quantities are, length , mass, time, current, luminous intensity, amount of substance, thermodynamic temperature.
Shravasti
fundamental quantities are quantities that are independent of others and cannot be define in terms of other quantities there is nothing like Qualities we have only fundamental quantities which includes; length,mass,time, electric current, luminous density, temperature, amount of substance etc
give examples of three dimensional frame of reference
Universe
Noman
Yes the Universe itself
Astronomy