Alpha vs Beta Particles
Alpha particles and beta particles are two types of nuclear radiation that are widely discussed in fields such as nuclear physics, atomic energy, cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy and various other fields. It is essential to have proper knowledge in the concepts behind alpha particles and beta particles in order to excel in such fields. Alpha particles have the same composition of the nucleus of a helium atom. Beta particles are either positrons or electrons. Both of these particle types are very important in the said fields. In this article, we are going to discuss what alpha particles and beta particles are, their definitions, how alpha particle and beta particles are created, applications of alpha particles and beta particles, their similarities, and finally the differences between alpha particle and beta particle.
Alpha particles are named after the first letter in Greek alphabet the letter α. Alpha particles are also denoted as α – particles. Alpha particles are classically produced in alpha decay, but they can be produced by various other nuclear reactions, as well. Alpha decay occurs in atoms with heavy nuclei. With alpha decay, the initial element becomes a different element with an atomic number two less than the initial atom. An alpha particle consists of two neutrons and two protons bound together. This structure is identically similar to the nucleus of a helium atom. Therefore, alpha particles can also be denoted as He2+. The net spin of an alpha particle is zero. All nuclear radiation has a property called penetration power, which describes how deep a particle can get inside a specified solid. Alpha particles have a very low penetration power. This means a thin wall is sufficient for stopping alpha particles. But high energy alpha particles such as cosmic rays have a relatively high penetration power. Alpha particles can be broken down to more fundamental subatomic particles with high energy collisions.
Beta particles are named after the second letter in Greek alphabet the letter β. Beta particles are also denoted as β – particles. Beta particles are either high energy electrons or high energy positrons. These are emitted in the decay of various radioactive nuclei such as Potassium – 40. There are two types of beta decay. The first one is β– – decay, which is also known as electron decay. The second type is the β+ – decay, which is also known as positron decay. In electron decay, a neutron converts into a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino. In positron decay, a neutron converts into a proton, a positron and a neutrino.
What is the difference between Alpha Particle and Beta Particle?
• Alpha particles consist of several nucleons whereas a beta particle consists of only one nucleon.
• Alpha particles have a relatively low penetration power whereas beta particles have a medium penetration power.
• There is only one type of alpha particles, but there are two types of beta particles.
• Alpha particles are very heavy relative to beta particles (approximately 6500 times heavier).