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What element did Rutherford use to obtain alpha particles in his experiment of gold foil?

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    $\begingroup$ Both are incorrect from the web. Always take the info from public websites with a grain of salt. It was radium emanation, which is nothing but radon gas. A good example which proves how much junk is out there on the web. Am-241 is completely off the hook. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Apr 16 at 4:41
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Initially, I stated in the comments(now deleted) that the source for alpha-particles was either Am-241 or radium metal. Both are incorrect as @M. Farooq said. The actual source was called radium-emanation which was basically radon gas or Rn-222 which was several times more radioactive than uranium. Researching a little bit more on the history of Rutherford's gold-foil experiment gave me following references. Have a look if you want to know more about the "inspiration/motivation" of this experiment:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4123660/
  2. Boltwood, Bertram B. “Radioactivity.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 50, no. 200, 1911, pp. 333–346. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/983927.
  3. https://history.aip.org/exhibits/rutherford/sections/exploring-radioactivity.html
  4. https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1202/1202.0954.pdf
  5. http://publications.iupac.org/publications/ci/2011/3301/8_radvanyi.html
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  • $\begingroup$ It is an understatement, that 222Rn with halftime 3.x days is several times more radioactive than 238U with billions of years, 235U with hundreds of millions, or even 226Ra with about 1600 years.... :-) $\endgroup$ – Poutnik Apr 18 at 2:09

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