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Encyclopedia > Beta emission
Nuclear processes

Radioactive decay processes


Nucleosynthesis

  • Neutron Capture
    • The R-process
    • The S-process
  • Proton capture:
    • The P-process

In nuclear physics, beta decay (sometimes called neutron decay) is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle (an electron or a positron) is emitted. In the case of electron emission, it is referred to as "beta minus" (β), while in the case of a positron emission as "beta plus" (β+).


In β decay, the weak nuclear force converts a neutron into a proton while emitting an electron and an anti-neutrino:

In β+ decay, a proton is converted into a neutron, a positron and a neutrino:

If the proton and neutron are part of an atomic nucleus, these decay processes transmute one chemical element into another. For example:

(beta minus)
(beta plus)

Historically, the study of beta decay provided the first physical evidence of the neutrino. The energies of electrons emitted by beta decay were observed to be non_discrete (some being more energetic than others). A problem arose in trying to explain what happened to the missing energy if an electron was emitted with less than maximum energy — the law of conservation of energy appeared to be violated. To solve this, Wolfgang Pauli proposed that the "missing" energy was actually carried away by another yet undiscovered particle — the neutrino. This was analysed in more detail by Enrico Fermi.


The Beta decay can be considered as a perturbation as described in quantum mechanics, and thus follow Fermi's Golden Rule.


See also





  Results from FactBites:
 
Beta decay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (382 words)
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle (an electron or a positron) is emitted.
In some nuclei, beta decay is energetically prevented, and in some of these cases the nuclei may undergo double beta decay.
Beta decay can be considered as a perturbation as described in quantum mechanics, and thus follow Fermi's Golden Rule.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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