Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds
 

Radioactive sources: isotopes and availability

In the UK, education suppliers stock only these three isotopes in sealed sources: 

cobalt-60                pure gamma (provided the low energy betas are filtered out)
strontium-90 pure beta
americium-241 alpha and some gamma

 

They are shown with the radiations that they emit. 

However, you may have other sources in your school or Local Authority and, as long as you follow your school safety policy and local rules, you can use these in schools. The ones that are useful for practical work are: 

 

radium-226              alpha, beta and gamma
plutonium-239 pure alpha
caesium-137 beta, then gamma (from its decay product, metastable Ba-137)

 

(For safety information, see Managing radioactive materials in schools.)