## Alpha, Beta and Gamma Radiation

It is often said that there are three types of nuclear radiation: alpha, beta and gamma radiation respectively.

Alpha radiation consists of helium nuclei - two protons and two neutrons.

Beta radiation consists of fast electrons. When a nucleus undergoes beta decay, another particle called an anti – neutrino is also emitted. In alpha and beta decay the atom changes and becomes another element. When a nucleus undergoes gamma decay, the element does not change. The nucleus becomes less energetic.

Nuclear radiation is emitted when the nucleus undergoes some sort of decay. If it undergoes alpha or beta decay the atom changes and becomes another element.

Alpha Decay:

Beta Decay:

Gamma decay:

Sometimes an element may undergo a series of decays. A simple example is shown below. Thenucleus undergoes beta decay and two gamma decays. The half life of each decay is different.

The three types of radiation can distinguished using magnetic fields. Gamma radiation is not charged and it will not be affected by the field and will pass through undeflected. Alpha radiation and beta radiation are oppositely charged and will bend in opposite directions as predicted by the left hand rule.