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Friday Facts – Alpha radiation

We just finished this week's experiment, where we used alphas to learn more about zirkonium, and therefore I thought that today I have to give you 10 Friday Facts about ALPHA RADIATION (a couple of weeks ago I wrote about radiation in general, you can read that blogpost HERE):
2 proton (p) + 2 neutrons (n) = alpha particle = helium nucleus
  1. Alpha radiation is one of the types of particle radiation - alpha radiation is like a stream of alpha particles (I change all the time between calling it just alphas, alpha particles, or alpha radiation - they're all the same 🙂 )
  2. An alpha particle is exactly the same as a helium nucleus (so, a helium atom stripped of its electrons)
  3. A helium nucleus consists of 2 protons and 2 neutrons - meaning that an alpha particle consists of two protons and two neutrons
  4. Alpha particles/radiation have a very short range - meaning they can't move very far; for example they only get a couple of centimetres in air
  5. Since the alpha particles have such a short range, it means that they are very easy to shield yourself, or protect yourself, from 
  6. If you get something (a source) in your body that emits alpha particles, this can be quite bad, since basically none of the alphas will get out of your body, and all their energy will be deposited inside your body
  7. Radon is an example of a radioactive gas that emits alpha radiation
  8. As long as whatever material that emits alphas is on the outside of your body, it can't hurt you (if the only problem with this material is that it emits alphas, of course)
  9. If I hold some material that emits alpha radiation in my hand, I won't get any dose (from radiation) to my hand (except from the part of my skin which is already dead, but I don't really care about whether or not my dead skin cells are exposed to a radiation dose ;))
  10. Heavy, unstable nuclei can emit an alpha particle to become a little bit lighter, and therefore more stable - ie, it's a little bit like "chopping" off a small part of the nucleus (like you have an apple, and you take a knife and you chop off a small part, then you have a little smaller apple and a piece of the apple)
helium atom: alpha particle + 2 electrons <3

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