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Topic: Beta Decay  (Read 6615 times)

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Offline xanthocyanopia

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Beta Decay
« on: April 19, 2006, 04:55:27 PM »
I don't quite understand the process of beta decay...

I get that a neutron is converted into a proton, electron and neutrino...and the electron is ejected from the nucleus as a "high energy electron" (beta particle)

My question is why doesn't the atom become positively charged?  Before it was neutral, now it has one more proton than it started with, so how can the charge be neutral?

Thanks

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Re: Beta Decay
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2006, 05:23:22 PM »
You are right - at first atom becomes positively charged. Then - depending on circumstances - it may also loose one of the valence electrons and get neutral. But as it is atom of completely different element strange things may happen. Imagine you are dancing with your girlfriend and lo - she changes to her neighbour on the student list :) That's more or less what happens in particle where beta decay takes place :)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2006, 05:26:38 PM by Borek »
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Offline xanthocyanopia

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Re: Beta Decay
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2006, 07:34:34 PM »
If the atom becomes positively charged and loses a valence electron, wouldn't that make it a +2 charge?

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Re: Beta Decay
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2006, 04:16:53 AM »
Thinking typo :)
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Offline jdurg

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Re: Beta Decay
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2006, 08:31:41 PM »
Yes, the atom formed does take on the positive charge initially, but the beta particle it gives off doesn't remain free indefinitely.  As it hits things, the beta particle knocks off valence electrons hence why it is considered "ionizing" radiation.  After some time, it will slow down enough that a positively charged atom will pick up the electron and after a short while all the charges balance out and the newly formed isotope will wind up as a neutral atom.
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