Nuclear equations show single alpha and beta decay.
The nucleus of an atom can be represented as:
Z is the atomic number (number of protons)
X is the chemical symbol (as shown in the periodic table)
Two protons and two neutrons are lost from a nucleus when it emits an alpha particle. This means that:
A new element is formed that is two places to the left in the periodic table than the original element.
For example, radon decays into polonium when it emits an alpha particle. Here is the equation for that radioactive decay:
In beta decay, a neutron changes into a proton plus an electron. The proton stays in the nucleus. The electron leaves the atom with high energy as a beta particle.
The nucleus has one more proton and one less neutron when it emits a beta particle. This means that:
For example, carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon. Here is the equation for the beta decay of carbon-14 into nitrogen: