Fine Structure of α-Rays

Abstract

IT is usually assumed that the long range α-particles observed in C'-products of radioactive series correspond to different quantum levels of the α-particle in the nucleus. If after the preceding β-disintegration the nucleus is left in an excited state with the α-particle on one of the levels of higher energy, one of the two following processes can take place: either the α-particle will cross the potential barrier surrounding the nucleus and will fly away with the total energy of the excited level (long range α-particle), or it will fall down to the lowest level, emitting the rest of its energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation (γ-rays), and will later fly away as an ordinary α-particle of the element in question. Thus there must exist a correspondence between the different long range α-particles and the γ-rays of the preceding radioactive body. If p is the relative number of nuclei in the excited state, γ the corresponding decay constant, and θ the probability of transition of the nucleus from the excited state to one of the states of lower energy with emission of energy (in form of γ-quanta or an electron from the electronic shells of the atom), the relative number of long range α-particles must be N = pλ/θ. Knowing the number of α-particles in each long range group and calculating, from the wave mechanical theory of radioactive disintegration, the corresponding values of λ, we can estimate for each group the value θ/p, giving a lower limit for the probability of γ-emission. For example, for thorium-C' possessing besides the ordinary α-particles also two groups of long range α-particles, we have for transition probabilities from two excited states to the normal state θ1<0.4 × 1012 sec.−1 and θ2<2 × 1012 sec.−1, which is the right order of magnitude for the emission of light quanta of these energies. With decreasing energy λ decreases much more rapidly (exponentially) than θ, so that the number of long range α-particles from the lower excited levels will be very small. (From this point of view we can also easily understand why the long range α-particles were observed only for C'-products for which the energy of normal α-particles is already much greater than for any other known radioactive element.)

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GAMOW, G. Fine Structure of α-Rays. Nature 126, 397 (1930). https://doi.org/10.1038/126397a0

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