Are alpha particles radioactive?
Teaching Guidance for 14-16
Is it correct to say that alpha particles are radioactive?
Wrong Track: The radioactive material gives out alpha particles, which are radioactive and therefore can do harm to human tissue, causing cancers.
Right Lines: The source gives out alpha particles. Each alpha particle consists of two protons and two neutrons. The alpha particles are potentially dangerous as they can disturb the molecular composition of human tissue, increasing the risk of cancer.
Alpha particles are not radioactive
Thinking about the learning
Some students attribute the property of
being radioactive to alpha or beta particles.
Thinking about the teaching
The important point to stress here is that alpha particles are not in themselves
radioactive. Each alpha particle consists of two protons and two neutrons and that's it. The particles do not have some mysterious, additional property of being radioactive.
The alpha particles are the radiation: nothing more, nothing less!