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Question Video: Recognizing the Penetrating Ability of Ionizing Radiation Chemistry

The following questions relate to the ability of different types of ionizing radiation to penetrate various substances. (a) Which type of ionizing radiation is able to pass through aluminum but is stopped by large quantities of concrete or several centimeters of lead? [A] 𝛽 particles [B] 𝛼 particles [C] 𝛾 rays, (b) Which type of ionizing radiation is able to pass through paper but is stopped by aluminum sheeting? [A] 𝛽 particles [B] 𝛼 particles [C] 𝛾 rays, (c) Which type of ionizing radiation could be stopped by a human hand? [A] 𝛽 particles [B] 𝛼 particles [C] 𝛾 rays

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Video Transcript

The following questions relate to the ability of different types of ionizing radiation to penetrate various substances. Which type of ionizing radiation is able to pass through aluminum but is stopped by large quantities of concrete or several centimeters of lead? (A) 𝛽 particles, (B) 𝛼 particles, (C) 𝛾 rays.

Ionizing radiation is radiation that carries enough energy to remove electrons from atoms. 𝛼 particles, 𝛽 particles, and 𝛾 rays are all types of ionizing radiation. 𝛼 particles consist of two positively charged protons and two neutral neutrons and have the same composition as a helium nucleus. 𝛽 particles are high-energy electrons and carry a negative charge. 𝛾 rays are a high-frequency electromagnetic wave that travels at the speed of light.

Due to the size of the particle, 𝛼 particles have a low penetrating ability and can be stopped by skin, a piece of paper, or approximately 10 centimeters of air. 𝛽 particles are significantly smaller than 𝛼 particles and therefore have a greater penetrating ability. 𝛽 radiation can pass through skin and paper but can be stopped by a thin sheet of aluminum. As 𝛾 radiation has no mass and travels as a wave of electromagnetic energy, it has the greatest penetrating ability. It can pass through paper, aluminum, and most materials. Sheets of lead a few centimeters thick or a meter or more of concrete are often enough to stop 𝛾 radiation. Understanding which types of materials can be used to stop different forms of ionizing radiation is important, as ionizing radiation is harmful to biological systems.

Now that we understand the difference in penetrating ability between 𝛼, 𝛽, and 𝛾 radiation, let’s return to the question. Which type of ionizing radiation is able to pass through aluminum but is stopped by large quantities of concrete or several centimeters of lead? The correct answer is answer choice (C) 𝛾 rays.

Which type of ionizing radiation is able to pass through paper but is stopped by aluminum sheeting? (A) 𝛽 particles, (B) 𝛼 particles, (C) 𝛾 rays.

Looking at the diagram that we drew earlier, we can see that the correct answer is answer choice (A). 𝛽 particles can pass through paper but can be stopped by aluminum sheeting.

Which type of ionizing radiation could be stopped by a human hand? (A) 𝛽 particles, (B) 𝛼 particles, (C) 𝛾 rays.

𝛼 radiation has the largest mass and is the least penetrating of the three types of ionizing radiation shown. It can be stopped by a piece of paper, skin, or 10 centimeters of air. The type of ionizing radiation that could be stopped by a human hand is answer choice (B) 𝛼 particles.

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