decay chain

A sequence of radioactive decay processes, in which the decay of one element creates a new element that may itself be radioactive. The chain ends when stable atoms are formed. For example, uranium-238 decays into thorium-234, which in turn decays into palladium-234, and so on until stable iron is produced at the end of the chain. Also called decay sequence

Nearby words

  1. decating,
  2. decatur,
  3. decatur, stephen,
  4. decatyl alcohol,
  5. decay,
  6. decay constant,
  7. decay series,
  8. decay theory,
  9. decay time,
  10. decca

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.