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How are beta decay equations written?

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Quick Answer

Writing a beta decay equations involves denoting the emission of a beta particle as the loss of an electron. Beta decay involves a neutron decaying into a proton and an electron emission (beta particle); the atomic number increases by one, but the mass number remains the same. The lost electron does not affect the electrons in the atom���s shell.

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Radioactive decay occurs when an alpha particle (Helium nuclei), beta particle (electron) or gamma ray (photon) is emitted from an atom���s nucleus. Alpha decay decreases the atomic number and the atomic mass because the nucleus loses two protons and two neutrons. Neutrons contain the mass of a proton and an electron but have no electric charge. When a neutron decays, it emits a negatively charged electron. The remaining mass combines with other protons in the nucleus, increasing its atomic number by one but retaining the total mass number.

Carbon 14 provides a good example of the decay process. Carbon 14 has six protons (atomic number) and a mass number of 14, so it has eight neutrons. When a Carbon 14 atom decays, a neutron breaks down, emits a beta particle, and becomes a proton, transforming the atom to nitrogen with seven protons. Since seven neutrons remain, the mass number does not change.

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