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  • Radioactivity is a property of certain elements (especially, transuranic i.e. elements having mass more than uranium) to spontaneously emit protons (a-particles), electrons (13-particles) and gamma (y) rays during their disintegration.

Penetrative capacities of radioactive particles are listed below:

  • α-particles can be blocked by a piece of paper and human skin as they have the least penetrative capacity.
  • β-particles can penetrate the skin, but can be blocked by glass or metals.
  • γ-rays have high penetration. These rays can easily penetrate human skin, damage cells on their way and can be blocked only by a very thick and strong piece of concrete.

Uses of Radioactivity to Assess Time Duration

  • Every living organism is made up of carbon. There are two isotopes of carbon: Carbon-12 and Carbon-14.
  • These two isotopes are present in a fixed ratio in a carbon compound. The ratio between them changes as radioactive Carbon-14 decays and is not replaced.
  • On the other hand, Carbon-12 is not radioactive in nature and thus, does not decay over time.
  • This ratio changes constantly with the passage of time and thus helps in determining the age of an organic matter. This is called carbon dating.

Types of Radiations

  • Energy emitted from a source is called radiation. Examples include heat or light from the sun, microwaves from an oven, X-rays from an X-ray tube, and gamma rays from radioactive elements.                                  RADIOACTIVITY AND TYPES OF RADIATION
  • Radiation has various forms. These forms differ only in frequency and wavelength. They are:
  • Heat waves
  • Radio Waves
  • Infrared light
  • Visible light
  • Ultraviolet light
  • X-rays
  • γ-rays.
  • Longer wavelength and lower frequency waves (heat and radio) have less energy than the shorter wavelength and higher frequency waves (X-rays and γ-rays).
  • Radiations can be further classified into two types: non-ionising radiations and ionising radiations.                        RADIOACTIVITY AND TYPES OF RADIATION

Non-ionising Radiations

  • Non-ionising (or non-ionizing) radiations are those radiations that do not carry enough energy to ionise atoms or molecules—to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule.
  • Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, these non-ionising radiations have sufficient energy only to move electrons to a higher energy state.
  • Non-ionising radiations have low penetration power and thus are comparatively less harmful than ionising radiations.
  • Short-term exposure to non-ionising radiations usually does not damage the body. However, prolonged exposure may cause damage to eyes, causes sunburns, etc.

Ionising Radiations  

  • Ionising radiations are the radiations with enough energy to remove tightly-bound electrons from the orbit of an atom, causing the atom to become charged or ionised.
  • These radiations have high penetration power and exposure to these radiations can have severe impacts on the body.
  • These impacts may be categorised into short-term and long-term impacts.                          RADIOACTIVITY AND TYPES OF RADIATION
  • Short-term impacts include burns, death of body cells, disturbance in the metabolism, etc.
  • Long Term impacts include cancer, occurrence of tumours and mutation of genes. These mutated genes may transfer to next generation.



Environment & Biodiversity


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