How do alpha particles decay?

1 Answer
Jan 8, 2014

They don’t. Only nuclei heavier than iron decay spontaneously.

Rather α particles are produced when other nuclei decay and emit one or more α particles. This process is called α decay.

During α-decay, an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle and transforms (or decays) into an atom with a mass number 4 less and atomic number 2 less.

For example, uranium-238 decays through α-particle emission to form thorium-234 according to the equation:

₉₂²³⁸U → ₉₀²³⁴Th + ₂⁴He