Oracle IAS, the best coaching institute for UPSC/IAS/PCS preparation in Dehradun brings to you UKPCS Science (paper #6).
Sometimes the nucleus of an atom is unstable. A change will occur in the nucleus to make it more stable. The change is called a decay. When a nucleus decays it will emit (give out) some particles or waves. Emitting particles or waves from the nucleus is called radioactivity.
Radioactive decay is a random process which gives out heat. The particles or waves that are emitted are called radiation.
There are three primary types of radiation:
- Alpha – these are fast moving helium atoms. They have high energy, typically in the MeV range, but due to their large mass, they are stopped by just a few inches of air, or a piece of paper.
- Beta – these are fast moving electrons. They typically have energies in the range of a few hundred keV to several MeV. Since electrons are might lighter than helium atoms, they are able to penetrate further, through several feet of air, or several millimeters of plastic or less of very light metals.
- Gamma – these are photons, just like light, except of much higher energy, typically from several keV to several MeV. X-Rays and gamma rays are really the same thing, the difference is how they were produced. Depending on their energy, they can be stopped by a thin piece of aluminum foil, or they can penetrate several inches of lead.
In healthcare: The most well known is using x rays to see whether bones are broken. The broad area of x-ray use is called radiology. Within radiology, we find more specialized areas like mammography, computerized tomography (CT), and nuclear medicine
In Industry: Radiographic techniques are used extensively in inspecting petroleum and gas pipeline welding.
In agriculture, radioactive materials are used to improve food crops, preserve food, and control insect pests.
In archaeology radioisotope carbon-14 is used to study and estimate the age of ancient artifacts.
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