Radioactive carbon-14 turns into nitrogen-14 over time. What type of decay is occurring in this reaction?

1 Answer
Mar 29, 2016


#C-14# is converted to #N-14# by beta decay, giving off an electron.


Alpha decay involves giving off an alpha particle, which is a helium nucleus. That carries off two protons and two neutrons, so the atomic number is reduced by two and the mass number is reduced by four.

Beta decay means giving off an electron or a positron. That changes the charge on the nucleus and thus the atomic number, increasing by 1 if an electron is given off or decreasing by 1 if a positron is given off. But the mass number remains the same as no nuclear particles are lost.

Thus #C-14# decaying #N-14# is beta decay with an electron being emitted.

Note to readers: This question originally referred to #C-14# decaying to #Be-10# by alpha decay. However, that is incorrect. Stefan V., upon being alerted, edited the question.