How should you write nuclear equations for beta decay?

1 Answer
Mar 5, 2017

Beta-minus decay: increase the atomic number by one, mass stays the same. Release electron and anti-neutrino.


Beta decay is when a neutron decays into a proton, an electron and an anti-neutrino.

This increases the atomic number of the nucleus by one, but the mass number stays the same.

For example, a carbon-13 nucleus undergoing beta decay would be written as

#""_6^13C -> ""_7^13N + e^(-) + barv_e#

This is known as beta-minus decay.

You can also have another form of beta decay which is asked about less frequently at lower levels of chemistry, beta-plus decay. This is when a proton decays into a neutron, a positron (anti-electron) and a neutrino. It is effectively the opposite of beta-minus decay.

Beta-plus decay decreases the atomic number by one, while the mass number stays the same.

#""_7^13N -> ""_6^13C + e^(+) + v_e#

You could write electrons and positrons as beta-particles, like so:

#e^(-) = ""_-1^0beta#

#e^(+) = ""_1^0beta#