35. Radio activity

Radio Activity was discovered by the French scientist Henri Becquerel in 1896, while he was working on phosphorescent salts. These are salts which glow in the dark, after being exposed to light first.

He thought that the glow produced in the Cathode Ray Tube by the X Rays might be similar in nature. He wrapped several photographic plates with black paper and tested by placing various phosphorescent salts on them.

All the salts showed negative results until Uranium salts were placed. Uranium salts blackened the photographic plates deeply! The new radiation found was named as Becquerel Rays.

But blackening of the photographic plates occurred even when the salts were kept in complete darkness! Metallic Uranium as well as non phosphorescent salts of Uranium also exhibited the same effect!

Initially Bacquerel Rays were thought to be similar in nature to the X Rays. But it was later proved to be much more complicated than X Rays.

The new rays were emitted due to the phenomenon called Radioactivity.

Radioactivity is the spontaneous disintegration of certain unstable nuclei emitting Alpha, Beta and Gamma Radiations. This is exhibited by certain elements and their compounds which are Radioactive in nature.

Radioactivity has found several uses in modern life. It is used to study living organisms and in the diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases. It is used to sterilize medical instruments and food items and also in producing electric power and heat energy in Thermal Power Plants.

Radioactivity which was discovered by a lucky accident, has revolutionized the world of Medicine and Energy!

Visalakshi Ramani


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