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Uses of Alpha Rays

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Last updated date: 24th Feb 2024
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What are Alpha Rays?

One of the most important discoveries in the field of science was of alpha particles which was done by Ernest Rutherford. When the nucleus of atoms are unstable, they release alpha particles to gain stability, and this process is known as alpha decay. Alpha decay is the main source of the formation of alpha radiations. Some of the examples of elements in which alpha decay takes place are Uranium, Plutonium, etc. They cannot go inside the human’s skin, therefore are harmless for humans externally. They can be stopped even by a thick piece of paper. However, as mentioned earlier, they can cause harm to soft living tissues.


Alpha Particle Coming out of an Atom


An Alpha Particle Coming out of an Atom


Properties of Alpha Particles

  • They are positively charged particles.

  • They are heavy as compared to particles of other radiations.

  • They are highly energetic and thus use up their energy over short distances and are unable to travel far from the atom.

  • Their penetrating power (power to go inside an object) is low.


What are Alpha Rays Used for?

Alpha particles are highly energised radiation. Some of their important uses are listed below:

  • They are used in the treatment of cancer.

  • They are used in smoke detectors.

  • They are used in providing power to spacecrafts.

  • They are used in oil industry. 

  • They are used in medical field to provide power to heart pacemakers.


Heart Pacemaker


Heart Pacemaker


Smoke Alarm


Smoke Alarm


Industrial Use of Alpha Rays

It is important to explore where are alpha particles used. Some of their industrial uses are as follows:

  • They are used to remove static electricity, for example, in paper mills.

  • They are used in the oil industry to give power to some of their tools.

  • They are typically used as a source of fuel.


Solved Questions

1. Alpha rays are produced by which type of decay?

  1. Alpha decay

  2. Beta decay

  3. Gamma decay

Ans:  Option (a) Alpha decay


2. Alpha rays are used in which of the following gadgets?

  1. Alarm clock

  2. Smoke alarm

  3. Water alarm

Ans:  Option (b) Smoke alarm


3. Alpha rays can treat which of the following diseases?

  1. Cancer

  2. Dengue

  3. Pneumonia

Ans:  Option (a) Cancer


Summary

Alpha particles are heavy, positively charged, and high energy particles which are produced during alpha decay of heavy atoms. They are used in various fields which benefit humans at an advanced level, for example, it was almost impossible to make a person’s heart beat again after it stopped working once, but today, we have heart pacemakers which turned impossible into reality. Alpha Rays are used as fuel that provides energy to the heart pacemaker. Apart from the medical field, they are used in various other industries.

FAQs on Uses of Alpha Rays

1. Is an alpha particle attracted to positive charge or negative charge?

Alpha particles are positively charged species, and since the like charges repel and opposite charges attract, they are attracted to negative charges. 

2. Can alpha particles penetrate thick materials?

No, they can not penetrate any type of thick material, in fact, they can even be stopped by a simple layer of clothes.

3. Do alpha particles react?

Yes, alpha particles are unstable in nature and also they are highly energetic; thus, they react to gain stable form.