# Would alpha particles react to form compounds? [closed]

Alpha particles, to my understanding, are just $\ce{He}^{2+}$ ions. Therefore, if one were to emit alpha particles in oxygen, wouldn't the oxygen, ($\ce{O^{2-}}$), react to form $\ce{HeO}$?

If so, would the bond be strong or weak? If not, why not?

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• There is no $\rm O^{2-}$ in oxygen. Then again, some particles will form, but not for long. Related: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/37260/… – Ivan Neretin Oct 24 '17 at 17:28
• This is ionising "radiation". Strips molecules of electrons and gives helium. – Mithoron Oct 24 '17 at 17:30
• @IvanNeretin Oxygen has a valence of (-2, 6) – mcchucklezz Oct 24 '17 at 17:30
• I don't know what does that mean (especially the "6" part) and how is it related to the question at hand, but I still stand by my statement. – Ivan Neretin Oct 24 '17 at 17:35
• Oxygen is $\ce{O2}$, there is no $\ce{O^2-}$ (oxide) in oxygen. – orthocresol Oct 24 '17 at 19:26

There are two ways of looking at your question, from a chemical perspective or from a nucleosynthesis perspective. As stated in the comments and in StephenG's answer, helium is chemically inert and cannot easily form bonds. Instead He$^{2+}$ will strip electrons from any compound it encounters. This is because the ionization energy of He$^+$ is extremely high, more than 54 eV, so that a lot of energy is released when He$^{2+}$ recombines with an electron from another atom or molecule.

However, collisions between alpha particles can produce new elements under conditions that are encountered in stars like our sun. Stars consist mostly of hydrogen and helium at high denisty and temperature. If you consider the potential energy between two alpha particles you'll see that for the most part it is dominated by the repulsive Coulomb potential. However at very short distances, on the order of 10$^{-15}$ m, the Strong Force creates a very steep bounding potential and the two alpha particles form a $^8$Be$^{4+}$ ion. Under normal conditions, the Coulomb potential prevents nuclear reactions to happen, but under the conditions in stars, the kinetic energy of some of the alpha particles is equal to the ground state energy of the (instable) $^8$Be nucleus and quantum mechanical tunneling allows for the reaction to proceed (this is basically the opposite process of alpha decay). Although $^8$Be is radioactive and lives only very short, the density in stars is so high that some of the Be nuclei collide with another alpha particle. Again, by chance, the collision energy equals an excited state of a carbon nucleus (this is a nuclear excited state and involves the ordering of the protons and neutrons in the nucleus and has nothing to do with electrons) that can decay to a Be and He nucleus or to the ground state of the carbon nucleus. In this way carbon is formed in stars and this process is called the triple-alpha process. Further collisions with helium nuclei will produce heavier elements like oxygen.

It is interesting to note that the existence of the excited state of the carbon nucleus was postulated by the astronomer Fred Hoyle because it needed to exists to explain the large amount of carbon in the universe.

Alpha particles, to my understanding, are just He2+ ions. Therefore, if one were to emit alpha particles in oxygen, wouldn't the oxygen, (O2−), react to form HeO

If Oxygen itself were emitting alpha particles it would on longer be Oxygen - it be be Carbon (it would have radioactively decayed).

If you mean that an external source of alpha particles were directed at oxygen, could they interact, then yes. But not to form stable compounds.

He is chemically inert. There are few known Helium compounds and I don't recall ever hearing of any Helium-Oxygen compound (i.e. just Oxygen not other elements as well).

Any interaction would be scattering - basically a collision. This can ionize the oxygen, but it won't form a stable compound with Helium so the oxygen will simply interact with "more willing" partners. I think @ivan-neretin added a comment that linked to a related answer.

• I meant in regard to alpha radiation hitting oxygen – mcchucklezz Oct 25 '17 at 2:04