Difference between Alpha, Beta and Gamma Rays – Comparison Table

Alpha Rays vs Beta Rays vs Gamma Rays

An unstable atomic nuclei loss its energy by emitting radiations such as alpha rays, beta rays and gamma rays by a process called radioactive decay. A substance with such an unstable nucleus is called the radioactive substance.

The particles produced by radioactive decay, i.e., alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays are considerably different with distinct physical, chemical and biological properties.

Alpha rays

They are also called alpha particles. Alpha rays consist of two protons and two neutrons bound tougher into particles. It is identical to the helium nucleus. Alpha particles are produced as a result of the alpha decay of a radioactive material such as Uranium-238.

Beta rays

They are also called beta particles. Beta rays are high energy high and speed electrons emitted from a radioactive material after the beta decay. Potassium-40 is a beta emitter.

Compare alpha, beta and gamma rays

image source: wikipedia

Gamma rays

They are also called gamma radiations. Gamma radiations are electromagnetic radiations with high energy and high penetration capacity produced from a radioactive material after the gamma decay. Radium-226 is a gamma emitter.

The following table shows the similarities and differences between alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.

Difference between Alpha Beta and Gamma Rays

Difference between Alpha Beta and Gamma Rays

PropertisAlpha RaysBeta RaysGamma Rays
Mass6.65 X 10^-27 kg5.5 x 10^-4 amuNegligible
Charge2 positive charge1 negative chargeNo charge
Speed and NatureHigh speed helium nucleusHigh speed electronsHigh speed electromagnetic radiations
Velocity~5% of the velocity of lightNearly equal to that of lightEqual to the velocity of light
Penetration powerLowModerate, 100 times more than alpha particlesHigh, 100 times more than beta particles
Effect of magnetic and electric fieldDeflected towards the negative lateDeflected towards the positive plateNot deflected
Ionizing powerGreater than beta and gamma raysVery lowVery low
LuminescenceProduce fluorescence and phosphorescenceProduce phosphorescenceProduce phosphorescence
Distance travelled2 – 4 cm2 – 3 meters500 meters

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