Damage due to the recoil of a nucleus
When an atom decays, the nucleus that recoils and the rays emitted inherit some of the energy released, which on an atomic scale is vast. They lose this energy in the form of heat, colliding with the atoms in their environment and displacing them by a few hundred microns. The figure shows a cascade of collisions started by a 70 keV recoil nucleus. The dots correspond to all the displaced oxygen atoms. The scales are expressed in angstroms (ten thousandths of microns or ten millionths of millimetres).
Clefs CEA N°53