As alpha particles are made out of 2 protons and 2 neutrons, they are the same as the helium atom with a +2 charge, but with a certain speed. The beta particles are made out of 1 electron at a certain speed. So, theoretically, "mixing" alpha particles with beta particles would create an excited helium atom, which then, would decay to a normal helium atom releasing the kinetic energy through gamma radiation, or simply light. Is this correct? If not, why?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Pretty much right "theoretically." Pragmatically nuclear process create the same number of positive and negative charges. You can't really "bottle" alpha particles and beta particles. So you can't have two such bottles that you just mix together. You'd have to have beams of charged particles so mixing would be poor. But you're right that a alpha particle is just a helium nucleus with a lot of kinetic energy. $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Sep 25, 2017 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ Both beta decay and alpha decay are used in nuclear "batteries". So, yes, helium is generated in alphavoltaic power sources, though it is probably embedded just below the semiconductor surface. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_battery#Alphavoltaics $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2017 at 1:36

1 Answer 1


This is very much a non-issue. Alpha particles run at great speed, so do beta particles, and as soon as they cool down, they cease to be called alpha and beta particles. When that happens, they may react all right, but there is more to it.

Everything on Earth (look around you! yes, that too) is made of atoms. Helium has greater ionization energy than any other atom. So an alpha particle, as soon as it cools down enough to react, will snatch electrons from whatever else is nearby and become a neutral helium atom. Beta particles (provided they are cooled down, too) are as good as anything else.

But wait, they both cool down by bumping into matter, and matter contains electrons. You will have your helium atoms, but you'll never be able to tell whether the electrons come from beta particles or from something else. Nor does it really matter, after all.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.