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Main » Nuclear Physics » Natural Radioactivity »OnlineIV_1_1 Nuclear Physics


Alpha and Beta Particles - Online Actitity IV.1.1

Purpose: To distinguish between alpha and beta decay.

Background Information: The penetrating power of alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays are different. Alpha particles can be stopped by a single piece of paper or thin aluminum. Beta particles can penetrate several centimeters of aluminum and it takes more than 30 cm of lead to stop gamma rays.

Somehow, in the Physics room at a local high school, the labels from two radioactive samples came off the samples. The teacher new that one was an alpha emitter and the other was a beta emitter, but she did not know which one was which. She therefore designed an experiment to find out how to label the samples. Her recorded data is listed in the data section of this laboratory.

Data:

Sample #1
Sample #2
# of sheets
Geiger counter reading
counts per minute
# of sheets
Geiger counter reading
counts per minute
paper
aluminum
lead
paper
aluminum
lead
0
300
300
300
0
300
300
300
1
300
275
250
1
280
240
220
2
300
265
210
2
270
200
150
3
300
255
170
3
255
150
80
4
300
245
140
4
240
105
30
5
300
235
100
5
225
55
10
6
295
225
70
6
205
15
6
7
285
200
50
7
180
7
7
8
285
175
30
8
150
8
6
9
275
150
15
9
125
6
7
10
275
125
10
10
100
7
7

Questions:

  1. Plot the data, emissions per minute versus the number of sheets, for each sample on different graphs. Color code your points to distinguish between the type of material used.
  2. Why doesn't the Geiger counter ever read zero emissions per minute?
  3. Which sample emitted alpha particles? Explain.
  4. Which sample emitted beta particles? Explain.
  5. Why do you think lead was used as one of materials? Was either sample a gamma emitter? Explain.

Conclusion: Remember, your conclusion must respond to the purpose.

 




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