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When radioactive decay occurs, a particle or energy is emitted when the nucleus of the parent atom decays to the daughter nucleus.Before we proceed to the different types of decay, let's review that the atomic mass is the superscript or the small number at the upper left side of the element symbol, indicating how many protons and neutrons are in the nucleus, and the atomic number is the subscript, or small number, at the lower left side of the element symbol, indicating how many protons are in the nucleus. These are: alpha decay, beta decay, and gamma emission. Alpha decay, or alpha emission, is the release or emission of an alpha particle, which is a helium nucleus consisting of two protons and two neutrons.It's important to note that there are two types of beta decay: beta minus decay and beta plus decay (positron emission).The table shows the symbols of the particles emitted for each type of radioactive decay: Did you know…Gamma rays have no atomic mass and no atomic number.Here is the reaction of a gamma emission that occurs accompanying beta decay of cobalt (Co) to nickel (Ni): If we check all the superscripts (atomic masses), they are balanced in the reactants and products (60 = 60).An example is shown where the iodine (I) undergoes radioactive decay, producing xenon (Xe). Beta plus decay, or positron emission, occurs when a proton turns into a neutron, causing an electron neutrino and a positron (a particle that has the same mass but opposite charge as an electron - also called a positive electron) to be emitted.As a result, the daughter nucleus' atomic number decreases by 1.
Gamma rays are emitted because when the nucleus undergoes alpha or beta decay, the nucleus is all shaken up and needs to release energy.As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 70,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.In order to calculate the half-life of a radioactive material, we use the following equation: For example, we can use the formula above to solve this problem: The radioisotope strontium-90 has a half-life of 38.1 years.If a sample contains 100 mg of Sr-90, how many milligrams will remain after 152.4 years?