What are Alpha, Beta and Gamma Decay?

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What are Alpha, Beta and Gamma Decay?

Alpha, beta and gamma radiation describe the emission of particles or rays from an unstable nucleus.

Radiation, or radioactivity describes the decay of an unstable nucleus into a more stable one. This process is characteristically done by the emission of an alpha particle, a beta particle or a gamma ray.

The differences between alpha, beta and gamma rays are as follows.

An alpha particle consists of two protons and two neutrons bound together, identical to a helium nucleus. A beta particle is an electron that is emitted from the nucleus of an atom. A beta particle is formed by the breakdown of a neutron into a proton and an electron and antineutrino. When the newly-formed nuclear electron, or beta particle, the resulting nuclide contains one fewer neutron, and one additional proton, so its atomic number increases by one, while its mass number stays the same.

A gamma ray, on the other hand, is not a particle. Rather, it is a packet of high-energy electromagnetic wave.

Both alpha and beta decay result in transmutation, in which the resulting nuclide has a different identity than the starting nuclide. Gamma decay does not result in a new nuclide.

The topics this lesson covers are:

-What an alpha particle is
-What a beta particle is
-How to write nuclear equations for alpha decay
-How to write nuclear equations for beta decay

To learn more about the how to write nuclide symbols, go to: alpha, beta and gamma radiation, go to:

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Tags: What are alpha, beta and gamma decay, alpha decay, beta decay, gamma decay gamma radiation, gamma ray, alpha particle, beta particle, chemistry help
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