Ionising Radiation
Quantum and Nuclear

Episode 508: Preparation for the radioactivity topic

Teaching Guidance for 16-19 IOP TAP

Over the age of 16, students can work with certain radioactive sources, provided they are carefully supervised. One of your tasks as a teacher is to show them how to work safely, and to convince them that it is indeed safe to do so.

Main aims of this topic


Students will:

  • work safely with laboratory sources of ionising radiation
  • understand the processes of radioactive decay
  • use standard notation to represent nuclear processes
  • solve problems involving half-life and exponential decay equations

Prior knowledge

Students should have a basic, descriptive knowledge of radioactivity. They should know that there is background radiation; that radioactivity arises from the breakdown of an unstable nucleus; that there are three types of radioactive emission with different penetrating powers; the natures of alpha and beta particles and of gamma radiation; the meaning of the term half-life.

Where this leads

An understanding of radioactive processes is important in some optional topics, such as medical physics.

Exponential decay equations are closely related to equations for capacitor discharge, so there is an opportunity here to draw together two widely separated strands of Physics.

Ionising Radiation
is used in analyses relating to Radioactive dating
can be analysed using the quantity Half-Life Decay Constant Activity
features in Medical Physics
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