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Comparism between alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays

Characteristics Alpha particles Beta particles Gamma rays


Helium nucleus

Fast moving electron

Electromagnetic radiation

Symbol Charge Mass Speed Ionising powder Penetrating power Range in air Stopped by +2 (positive) Large 10% of the speed of light Strongest Weak A few cm Human skin or a thin piece of paper -1 (negative) Very small 90% of the speed of light Intermediate Moderate A few meter A few mm of Aluminium No charge No mass Speed of light, c Weakest Strong A few hundred meter A few cm of lead or concrete

Effect of electric field

Deflected toward the negative plate has a positive charge

Deflected towards the positive plate. Deflection is greater due to the small mass of electron

No deflected because has no charge

Effect of magnetic field

Small deflection because has a large mass

Greater deflection because has a very small mass

No deflection because has no charge

Radioactive Detectors

Gold Leaf Electroscope

1. When the charged plate of the electroscope is exposed to the source of radioactive, the gold leaf will collapse slowly. 2. This is due to the ions produced by radioactive source neutralize the charge in the electroscope 3. This method is suitable for detecting alpha particles because alpha particles have high ionizing power.

Spark Counter

1. 2. 3. 4.

When the radioactive source is brought near the spark counter, the sparks are formed The radioactive rays will ionize the air molecules The sparks are formed due to collision between the ions and air molecules The sparks counter can only trace alpha particle which have high ionising power

Geiger-Muller tube (GM tube)

1. A GM tube is very versatile, sensitive and useful detector of radiation 2. When the radioactive radiations enter the GM tube through the mica window and ionizes the argon gas. A pulse current is produced and counted by a scaler or ratemeter 3. The actual reading of GM tube is calculated as follow: Actual reading = reading recorded background reading 4. Background reading is produced by radioactive materials from Earth and the surroundings such as stones, sand, soils, etc and also from the cosmic rays in the sunlight. 5. The GM tube can detect alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.

Cloud Chamber

1. When the radioactive rays enter he upper part, the ionization of air will occur. The ions allow the saturated alcohol vapour to condense forming tiny alcohol droplet and will cause the formation of misty tracks. 2. The cloud chamber can detect all the three types of radioactive radiation

Photographic Plate or Film

1. The photographic film or plate can be used as a special badge or tag to record the dosage radiation a staff at radiation laboratories is exposed to 2. The detector works on the principle that radioactive radiation can cause a chemical change on the plate and produce a dark trace 3. The degree of darkening of the photographic film indicates the amount of radiation received 4. The photographic film can detect all the three types of radioactive radiation.

Radioisotopes Radioisotopes are unstable isotopes which decay and give out radioactive emissions.

Radioisotopes are naturally occurring or artificially produced. Uses of radioisotopes There are many uses for radioisotopes in a wide range of field including medicine, agriculture, industry and archaeology. Medicine In medicine field radioisotopes are used in the diagnosis of certain diseases, provides information of the specific organs of a patient or treat disease.

Radioisotopes Sodium-24

Half life 15 hours Emit and

Uses Detect the positions of blood clots(thrombosis) in veins Study the blood in heart

Process Injected into the blood stream and gamma rays and beta rays emitted is detected by a ray camera outside the body Emits gamma and produces no harmful alphas or beta inside the body. The Technetium is combined into samples of the protein albumin, and this is injected into the patient. Patients are given an intravenous injection of iodine131. A detector is placed near the thyroid to read its activity or function Gamma radiation is carefully directed at cancer site from an external cobalt source. Its operated by remote control from behind thick lead and concrete walls. Cobalt-60 also is used to sterilize medical equipments.


6 days Emit

Iodine- 131 Emit

8 days and

For detecting changes in thyroid glands

Cobalt-60 Emit

5 years and

Treatment of internal cancers

Radioisotope in Industry

Radioisotope Strontium-90

Half life 28 years Emits

Uses The thickness of paper in a paper industry


15 hours Emit and

Test for leakage of underground pipes Check welds in steel structures and pipelines

Cobalt -60

5 years Emit and


460 years Emits

Used in a smoke alarm

A radioactive source containing strontium-90 is placed at one side of the paper and a detector on the other side. The detector registers a higher count if the paper is too thin a lower count if it too thick. A GM tube is moved above the underground pipe, a leakage can be detected when the tube registers a higher reading. Cobalt-60 source placed on one side of a steel structure exposes a photographic plate at the othe side. A flaw such as bubble or crack inside a weld on a pipeline would be visible on the exposed film When the smoke enters the alarm, the smoke particles get in the way of the radiation, reducing the ionization and the current across the alarm. This cause the alarm to sound.