Alpha Decay – Class 12 | Chapter – 13 | Physics Short Notes Series PDF for NEET & JEE

Alpha Decay: Alpha decay is a type of radioactive decay in which an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle, which consists of two protons and two neutrons. Alpha decay typically occurs in very heavy elements, such as uranium and radium, which have an excess of protons and neutrons in their nuclei.

Alpha Decay

During alpha decay, the parent nucleus loses two protons and two neutrons, which reduces its atomic number by 2 and its mass number by 4. This results in the creation of a new nucleus with a lower atomic number and mass number. The emitted alpha particle has a charge of +2 and a mass of 4, and is typically emitted with a high velocity.

Alpha decay is a highly energetic process that releases a large amount of energy in the form of kinetic energy of the alpha particle and the resulting daughter nucleus. This energy is often used in nuclear power generation and other applications.

The rate of alpha decay is governed by the half-life of the parent nucleus, which is the time it takes for half of the original nuclei to decay. The half-life of alpha decay can vary widely depending on the particular isotope involved, ranging from a fraction of a second to billions of years.

Applications of Alpha Decay

Alpha decay has several important applications in science and technology. Some of these applications include:

  • Smoke detectors: Alpha particles emitted from a small amount of radioactive material (such as americium-241) are used to detect smoke in a room. When the alpha particles interact with the air, they ionize the air molecules, which in turn creates an electrical current that triggers the smoke detector.
  • Nuclear power: Alpha particles are released during the decay of certain heavy isotopes, such as uranium-235 and plutonium-239, which are used as fuel in nuclear reactors. These alpha particles are responsible for generating the heat used to produce electricity.
  • Medical applications: Alpha particles can be used to deliver radiation therapy to treat certain types of cancer. By targeting cancer cells with alpha particles, doctors can destroy the cancerous tissue while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
  • Geology: The decay of certain isotopes, such as uranium-238, can be used to determine the age of rocks and other geological materials. By measuring the ratio of parent isotopes to daughter isotopes in a sample, geologists can determine how long ago the material was formed.
  • Research: Alpha decay is an important process in nuclear physics research. By studying the properties of alpha particles and the decay of heavy isotopes, scientists can gain insights into the fundamental nature of matter and energy.

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By Team Learning Mantras