Ionising Radiation
Quantum and Nuclear

The nature of the radiation

Teaching Guidance for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Alpha particles, beta particles and gamma radiation

It is quite common for teachers and students to talk about alpha, beta and gamma radiation. In fact, on first discovery (around 1900), all three were referred to as rays before their actual identity was established. Now we know that only gamma is a form of electromagnetic radiation, while alpha and beta radiation consist of streams of fast-moving particles.

The collective term radiation conceals the differing nature of the radiations. But as they all have the same effects, that's perhaps not a bad thing at this stage. Later on, in post-16 studies, it might be more appropriate to focus on the differences, when you can explain these more explicitly.

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

Disable node explorer

2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more