Alpha and Beta Radiation are both powerful. What are the characteristics? How does the shielding work for each one?
Alpha Radiation Shielding
A thorium rod in the cloud chamber contains alpha particles and electrons (reflected by a magnetic field).
The following characteristics of alpha particles are essential for their protection.
For alpha particles and highly charged particles, the power density of most materials is strong. Alpha particles thus have extremely small ranges.
For instance, the aluminium alloy’s 5 MeV alpha particle lengths are only about 0.002 cm or in the air around 3.5 cm. A small sheet of paper may block most alpha particles.
Even the dead cells in the external skin layer offer sufficient protection since alpha particles cannot enter the skin.
There is thus no significant issue with protecting alpha radiation alone. Alpha radioactive nuclear may, nevertheless, lead to severe health risks via ingestion or inhalation (internal contamination). When eaten or breathed, the alpha particles damage the inside tissue severely as a result of decline. In addition, pure alpha radiation is highly uncommon, and alpha decay is often accompanied by gamma radiation.
Beta Radiation Shielding
Alpha particles or electrons (magnetic field deflected) in a cloud chamber from a thorium rod.
The following characteristics of beta particles (electrons) are essential for their protection.
Beta ionizes matter less than alpha radiation. In contrast, the range of beta particles is longer and relies heavily on initial kinetic particle energy. Some have sufficient power to worry about external exposure.
A 1 MeV beta particle may flow around 3.5 m in the air. Such beta particles may enter the body and deposit the internal dosage on the surface. Therefore, more protection is needed than in the case of alpha radiation.
As beta particle shields, materials with a low atomic Z number are suitable. The brake radiation (secondary radiation – X-rays) is linked with high Z materials. This radiation is generated when beta particles are slowed down while moving into a highly dense material. Heavy clothes, thick cardboard or thin plate aluminium, will shield against beta radiation and reduce brake radiation generation.
Lead and plastic are often used to protect against beta radiation. The literature on radiation protection recommends placing plastic first to capture all beta particles before any plumbing protection being employed. This suggestion is based on the well-known notion that radiative losses in larger atomic quantities (Z) than in low Z materials are more common.