How does beta decay affect the atomic number?

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Jun 29, 2014

When an atom undergoes beta decay, the atomic number will increase by 1.

When an atom undergoes beta decay, one of the neutrons in the nucleus converts to a proton and an electron (and a lot of energy!). The electron is ejected from the nucleus and is called the beta particle. The proton stays in the nucleus and changes the identity of the atom, to the next higher atomic number. The atomic mass will stay the same. the resulting atom is usually more stable than the starting atom.

An example: Carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons. When it undergoes beta decay, one of the neutrons changes to a proton and electron. The electron will get kicked out of the nucleus, and the final element will have 7 protons and 7 neutrons, making it Nitrogen-14.

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