Alpha, beta and gamma rays

When a radioactive sample placed in a lead box. It starts emitting particles which split into three components as electric field is applied. The particles that bend towards the positive plate are called α-particles. The particles that bend towards the negative plate are called β-particles and the particles that pass without deviating are called γ-rays. The figure is shown below:

Nature of different rays under electric field

Properties of α particles:

  • α-particles are the nuclei of a helium atom.
  • They move with high velocities.
  • They have a rest mass of 6.4×10-27 Kg.
  • They are positively charged particles with charge equal to +2e = 3.2×10-19Columb.
  • Their energy is about 6 meV.
  • They get deflected in electric and magnetic field.
  • They produce fluorescence and phosphorescence in some materials such as zinc sulphide.
  • They ionize the gas through which they pass and can penetrate through matter.

Properties of  β particles:

  • β-particles are the electrons of nuclear origin.
  • Their velocity is in the order of 108 ms-1.
  • They have a rest mass of 9.1×10-31 Kg.
  • They are negatively charged particles having charge 1.610-19 columb.
  • Their energy ranges from 2 to 3 meV.
  • They get deflected in electric and magnetic field.
  • They produce fluorescence and phosphorescence in some materials such as zinc sulphide.
  • They ionize the gas through which they pass and can penetrate through matter. Their penetrating power is 100 times more than that of α-particles but ionizing strength is 1/100th of α-particles.

Properties of γ-rays:

  • γ-particles are the electromagnetic waves of very short wavelength.
  • They are charge less particles.
  • They do not get deflected by electric and magnetic field.
  • They move with velocity equal to that of light.
  • They produce fluorescence in some materials.
  • They produce heat on the surface on which they fall and knock out electrons from it.
  • They ionize the gas through which they pass and can penetrate through matter. Their penetrating power is 100 times more than that of β-particle but ionizing strength is 1/100th of β-particle.
  • They can produce nuclear reaction.

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