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Ionising Radiation

In this worksheet, students explore the different types of radiation and ionisation.

'Ionising Radiation' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

Curriculum topic:  Physics: Atomic Structure

Curriculum subtopic:  Ionisation

Difficulty level:  

down

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Radiation changes the structure of an atom. This is called ionisation. Ionisation causes the DNA in cells to mutate (change randomly). Mutations cause body cells to behave differently and divide in an uncontrolled manner. This can cause cancer. Therefore, people handling radioactive material take the following precautions:

  • wear special protective clothing
  • keep as far away from the source of radioactivity possible
  • use absorbing shielding
  • reduce the length of their exposure
  • do not touch radioactive material.

 

Radioactivity can be measured using a Geiger-Müller (GM) tube, connected to a ratemeter or counter. Most commonly, it is called a Geiger counter. Radioactivity can also be heard through a loudspeaker. There are three main types of ionising radiation: alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ).


Background radiation is all around us. There are many sources of background radiation. The pie chart shows some of them:

 



Alpha, beta and gamma radiation come from the nucleus of a radioactive atom. Alpha radiation causes the most ionisation and gamma causes the least. Alpha can be stopped by a thin piece of paper, beta penetrates the paper but can be stopped by a 3mm thick piece of aluminium and gamma can penetrate a 3m thick lead block and concrete. The diagram shows this in more detail:

 



Whereas normally atoms have an overall neutral charge, ionised particles have a positive or negative charge.


What is more, radiation has several uses; for exampe, it is used in radiotherapy to treat cancer. Gamma radiation, specifically, is used by doctors for the sterilisation of medical instruments. Additionally, it has applications in screening for cancer, fire alarms and to measure thickness in the industries.

What does ionisation cause? Tick two options.

it changes the structure of an atom

it stabilises atoms

it hardens crude oil

it causes DNA to mutate

What do cancerous cells do?

they are normal

they divide and then stop

they divide out of control

Tick four pieces of equipment that can be used to detect radioactvity.

Geiger counter

ratemeter

burial site

GM tube

background cell

loudspeaker

How many types of ionising radiation are there?

1

2

3

Tick three sources of background radiation.

plants

coal power stations

cosmic rays

air travel

medical, e.g. X rays

Tick the three main types of ionising radiation.

alpha

beta

gamma

delta

epsilon

zeta

Where do these types of radiation come from?

the nucleus of a radioactive cell

the nucleus of a radioactive atom

cancerous cells

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Alpha rays are absorbed by a thin piece of paper.

true

false

What material can stop gamma rays?

aluminium

lead

none

Tick one use of radiation.

cancer screening

stabilisation of chemical substances

DNA mutations

  • Question 1

What does ionisation cause? Tick two options.

CORRECT ANSWER
it changes the structure of an atom
it causes DNA to mutate
EDDIE SAYS
Ionisation changes the structure of an atom and causes DNA mutations.
  • Question 2

What do cancerous cells do?

CORRECT ANSWER
they divide out of control
EDDIE SAYS
Cancerous cells divide so quickly that it is impossible to control them, causing the cancer to spread very quickly.
  • Question 3

Tick four pieces of equipment that can be used to detect radioactvity.

CORRECT ANSWER
Geiger counter
ratemeter
GM tube
loudspeaker
EDDIE SAYS
Radioactivity can be measured using a Geiger-Müller (GM) tube connected to a ratemeter or counter. Most commonly it is called Geiger counter. Radioactivity can also be heard through a loudspeaker.
  • Question 4

How many types of ionising radiation are there?

CORRECT ANSWER
3
EDDIE SAYS
There are three main types of ionising radiation: alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ).
  • Question 5

Tick three sources of background radiation.

CORRECT ANSWER
cosmic rays
air travel
medical, e.g. X rays
EDDIE SAYS
Background radiation comes from cosmic rays, medical use (e.g. X rays), gamma radiation from the ground, internal (e.g. food), air travel, nuclear waste etc.
  • Question 6

Tick the three main types of ionising radiation.

CORRECT ANSWER
alpha
beta
gamma
EDDIE SAYS
The three main types of ionising radiation are alpha, beta and gamma.
  • Question 7

Where do these types of radiation come from?

CORRECT ANSWER
the nucleus of a radioactive atom
EDDIE SAYS
Alpha, beta and gamma ionising radiation comes from the nucleus of a radioactive cell.
  • Question 8

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Alpha rays are absorbed by a thin piece of paper.

CORRECT ANSWER
true
EDDIE SAYS
Alpha rays are absorbed by a thin piece of paper, beta penetrates the paper but can be stopped (absorbed) by a 3mm thick piece of aluminium and gamma can penetrate a 3m thick lead block and concrete.
  • Question 9

What material can stop gamma rays?

CORRECT ANSWER
none
EDDIE SAYS
Gamma rays radiate infinitely and can penetrate concrete and a thick block of lead.
  • Question 10

Tick one use of radiation.

CORRECT ANSWER
cancer screening
EDDIE SAYS
It is used in radiotherapy to treat cancer. Gamma radiation, specifically, is used by doctors for sterilisation of medical instruments. Additionally, it is used for screening for cancer, fire alarms and to measure thickness in the industries.
---- OR ----

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