# Ionizing Radiation and Electron Emission

1. Oct 11, 2014

### Hereformore

Can someone clarify what Ionizing Radiation is and how it relates to Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Emission and/or Absorption?

A question in the Princeton Review Science Workbook read:

The daughter nucleus of CS-137 is:...

and the answer is 137 - Barium.

The text says that Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Particles are destructive because of their ability to ionize atoms they collide with.

So this suggests (given the answer to the question) that the Ionizing Abilities of such radiation (alpha, beta, and gamma particles/radiation) can cause a neutron to break open and release an electron, thus leaving an extra proton (this is how CS-137 became Ba-137. Barium has 1 more proton than Cesium and Ba-137 has the same mass).

But in doing some side reading, I found that Alpha , Beta, and Gamma particles induce ionization by exciting electrons they collide with. This is different from breaking open a neutron. Can anyone clarify?

2. Oct 11, 2014

### Matterwave

Your sources seem to be all over the place...

3. Oct 11, 2014

### Hereformore

Okay thanks a lot. I think i got confused because you hear of "Ionization" in chemistry when an atom is hit with radiation to eject an electron.

I think I was/am confusing decay vs ionizing radiation.

Decay [can] result in a neutron breaking apart to release a beta particle, and a beta particle can be an electron.

But ionizing radiation causes electrons to be ejected. When we speak of ionizing radiation is it the same radiation we speak of when it comes to ionization energy? In biology, is it the same idea but applied to bonds? I guess only looking at ionization at the atomic level (on a single atom basis) I neglected to consider that ionization could apply to bonds as well. Am i on the right track?

4. Oct 11, 2014

### Matterwave

A beta particle IS an electron. Beta decay is at its heart the process $n\rightarrow p^+ +e^-$ where a neutron, which is usually inside a nucleus but could be free, turns into a proton and an electron. I would not use the term "break" for the neutron since that would imply the neutron is made up of a proton and an electron, but it is not. This ejection of the electron has nothing to do with ionizing an atom. Ionizing an atom is when you take an already existing electron from the atom's shell of electrons and remove it. In a beta decay, the electron comes from inside the nucleus, not from the shell of electrons which swarm the atom.

"Ionizing radiation" versus "non-ionizing radiation" is not an extremely clear-cut distinction. It is similar to like "harmful radiation" versus "not-harmful radiation". It really depends on the energy of the decay products.