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The nuclide

22286

Rn

emits alpha particles. The initial alpha particlecount rate was 1000Bq. After 12 hours the count rate fell to120Bq. Assume corrections have been made for backgroundradiation and radioactive daughter products.(a) Calculate the decay constant of

22286

Rn

.(b) Calculate the half-life of the substance.(c)Calculate the number of nuclei when the count rate was1000Bq.

Answer

(a)

A

=

A

0

e

−

λ

t

,A= e

−

λ

t

A

0

A

0

=

e

−

λ

t

, lnA

0

=

λ

t A AlnA

0

A

=

λ

t ln1000120

=

λ = 4.91×

10

-5

S

−1

(12

×

60

×

60)

(b)

t

½

=ln2

λ

t

½

=ln2= 1.41

×

10

4

s4.91

×

10

-5

(c)

A = -

λ

N A= N =1000= 2.03

×

10

7

λ

4.91

×

10

-5

1

Radioactive Decay Calculations

www.curriculum-press.co.ukNumber 138

F actsheetP hysics

Half-life and decay constant

The half-life is the time taken for the radioactivity (A) of a substanceto fall by half. The original number of radioactive nuclei (N) andmass of original substance (m) also fall by half in the same time.The decay constant,

λ

, is related to the half-life, t

1/2

by the equation

1/2

ln2

t

λ

=

The time taken for radioactivity to fall by half is the half-life. Half-life and decay constant are related by the equation:

1/2

ln2

t

λ

=

C o u n t r a t e

Half-lifeTimeHalf-lifeHalf-life

Radioactivity over time

Exponential decay

If a radioactive substance decays into a stable one, then lessradiation is emitted over time. If the original activity is

A

0

, then theactivity at any time,

A

is given by

A

=

A

0

e

−

λ

t

There are similar equations for the number of radioactive nuclei

N

=

N

o

e

−

λ

t

and mass of radioactive substance

m

=

m

o

e

−

λ

t

.

A

=

A

0

e

−

λ

t

is the relationship for the exponential decay of radioactivity.Count rate can be measured per second (s

-1

) or per hour(h

-1

) etc. The count rate per second is also measured in Becquerel(Bq).

22286

Rn

Example 2

The activity of a source of

β

radiation falls to 56% of initial valuein 518s. Calculate the decay constant of the source.

Answer

Example 3

A radioactive isotope has a half-life of 27 years. A sample has anactivity of 10

6

counts s

-1

. Calculate:(a)the decay constant of this substance in seconds

-1

.(b)the original number of nuclei in the sample.(c)the time taken for the activity to fall from 10

6

to 10

4

counts s

-1

.

Answer

(a)t

½

=27 years or 27

×

365

×

24

×

60

×

60 = 8.51

×

10

8

seconds

λ

=ln2/t

½

= ln2/8.51

×

10

8

= 8.14

×

10

-10

s

-1

(b) A=-

λ

N A/

λ

= N =10

6

s

-1

/8.14

×

10

-10

s

-1

=1.23

×

10

15

particles(c) ln(N

0

/N)/

λ

= t = ln(10

6

/10

4

)/8.14

×

10

-10

=5.66

×

10

9

s or 179 years

00031

A A1lnlnln0.56A A0.56 ,,1.1110stt518

λ λ λ

− −

⎛ ⎞⎛ ⎞ ⎛ ⎞⎜ ⎟ ⎜ ⎟ ⎜ ⎟⎝ ⎠ ⎝ ⎠ ⎝ ⎠

= = = = ×

Example 1

138. Radioactive Decay Calculations

Physics Factsheet

2

Exam Hint:

If half-life is given in seconds, then units of decayconstant will be seconds

-1

(t

½

in years,

λ

in years

-1

).

Example 4

If an initial radioactive count is 160Bq and background radiationis 2Bq, how many half-lives pass before the count reaches thepoint where background radiation is on average 10% of the countrate?

Answer

After 1 half-life, count rate is 80Bq, 2 half-lives 40Bq and 3 half-life lives 20Bq. If the decay constant is 2.7

×

10

-3

s

-1

, how much time has passed?t

½

=ln2 ,ln2= t

½

l 2.7´10

-3

3 half lives = 771 seconds

Example 5

If there are 1.5 moles of a radioactive substance with a half-life of 2.3 years, what is the activity?

Answer

dN = A =

−λ

N dt

λ

=ln2=ln2= 9.56

×

10

-9

s

-1

t

½

2.3

×

365

×

24

×

60

×

60 N = nA where n is the number of moles and A is Avogadro’sconstant N= 1.5

×

6.022

×

10

23

= 9.033

×

10

23

nuclei. Activity =

λ

×

N = 9.56

×

10

-9

s

-1

×

9.033

×

10

23

= 8.64

×

10

15

Bq

Example 6

The decay constant of a radioactive substance is 5.1

×

10

-5

s

-1

asmeasured by a detector 2m away. Where should the detector bemoved to measure the same count rate after 1 hour?

Answer

A = A

0

e

−λ

t

,A= e

−λ

t

,A= e

-5.1

×

10

−

5

×

60

×

60

= 0.83A

0

A

0

source2mdetectora) Time = 0detectorsource1.8mb) Time = 1 hourAfter 1 hour, count rate drops, sothe detector must be moved nearerto measure same count rate

Assume the emitted radiation spreads out in all directionsspherically. When it reaches the detector it all passes through asphere of radius 2m. A small fraction of the radiation is detectedas it passes through the detector.After 1 hour, the count rate has dropped to 0.83 of the original rate.The area of the sphere x, that the radiation passes through at thedetector must also be reduced to 0.83 of the original area topreserve the count rate. 0.83 = x

2

/ 2

2

, x =1.82m

Background radiation

Radiation is emitted around us all the time, from artificial and naturalsources. An average of this background radiation is measured overa period of time. However, this radiation is emitted randomly so themeasured counts will vary in any short time period.

Example 7

Find the decay constant of the substance in this graph.

Answer

Half-life is 0.7s. Decay constant =ln2t

½

Decay constant = 1.0s

-1

Example 8

There are 10

6

atoms of a radioactive substance with a decayconstant of 7.9

×

10

-5

s

-1

. Calculate the activity of the substance.Background radiation is estimated to be 20Bq.Assuming the background radiation varies by

±

10% in a 5 secondperiod, calculate the maximum and minimum measured counts in 5seconds.

Answer

A=

λ

N = 7.9

×

10

-5

s

-1

×

106 = 79Bq Background radiation counts in 5 seconds is 100

±

10Bq. Theradiation emitted from the source in 5 seconds is 395Bq, so themaximum and minimum measured counts will be 505Bq to 485Bq.

Example 9

A patient is injected with 1cm

3

of technetium 99 with aconcentration of 0.01 moles per litre and a decay constant of 3.2

×

10

-5

s

-1

. Calculate the number of technetium nuclei remainingin the bloodstream after 1 day. Assume no losses throughexcretion.

Answer

1 litre = 1000cm

3

1cm

3

=0.001litres0.001litres

×

0.01mol litre

-1

= 1

×

10

-5

moles6.022

×

10

23

×

10

-5

= 6.022

×

10

18

particles N = N

0

e

−λ

t

= 6.022

×

10

18

×

e

−

3.2

×

10

−

5

×

24

×

60

×

60

= 3.8

×

10

17

nuclei=257 seconds

Physics Factsheet

3

138. Radioactive Decay Calculations

Example 10

(a)Sketch a graph of A = A

0

e

−λ

t

and show how you would identifyhalf-life.(b)

67

Cu is a beta particle emitter with a decay constant of 1.3

×

10

-4

s

-1

. If an initial count of 4

×

10

8

Bq is needed, whatmass of this element is required?

Answer

(a)(b)A/

λ

= N = 4

×

10

8

/1.3

×

10

-4

= 3.1

×

10

12

nucleiMass of nuclei= 67

×

1.66

×

10

-27

kg

×

3.1

×

10

12

nuclei= 3.4

×

10

-13

kg

Example 11

(a) The half-life of

223

Ac is 2.5 minutes. Calculate the mass neededto have an activity of 2

×

10

14

Bq.(b) The activity of a substance falls from 10

11

Bq to 10

10

Bq in 10hours. Calculate the half-life.(c) Calculate the activity of 2 mg of

223

Ra with a half-life of 13hours.

Answer

(a) 2.5 minutes is 150 seconds,

λ

= ln2/150 = 4.6

×

10

-3

s

-1

A =

λ

N , A/

λ

= N = 2

×

10

14

Bq/(4.6

×

10

-3

s

-1

) = 4.3

×

10

16

nucleiOne nucleus of actinium has a mass of:223

×

1.66

×

10

-27

kg = 3.70

×

10

-25

kg4.3

×

10

16

nuclei

×

3.7

×

10

-25

kg = 1.59

×

10

-8

kg or 15.9?g(b)

= 6.39

×

10

-5

s

-1

t

½

=ln2 , ln2= 1.08

×

10

4

s

λ

6.39

×

10

-8

(c) 2

×

10

-6

kg of

223

Ra contains2

×

10

-6

kg/(223

×

1.66

×

10

-27

kg) = 5.4

×

10

18

nuclei

λ

=ln2/t

1/2

= ln2/(13

×

60

×

60) = 1.48

×

10

-5

s

-1

A=

λ

n = 5.4

×

10

18

×

1.48

×

10

-5

s =8.0

×

10

13

Bq

Example

12

Calculate the activity of a source (with a half-life of 15 days) after50 days if the initial activity is 10

8

Bq.

Answer

A = A

0

e

−λ

t

= 10

8

×

e

-(ln2/15

×

50)

=1

×

10

7

Bq

Time

C o u n t r a t e

Half-life

11010

10 Alnln10 A ,t103600

λ λ

⎛ ⎞⎛ ⎞⎜ ⎟ ⎜ ⎟⎝ ⎠ ⎝ ⎠

= =×

1.Find the decay constant of this radioactive substance byproducing a graph of count rate against time.2.(a) A source of beta radiation has an initial total activity of 2

×

10

7

Bq and a half-life of 24s. Calculate the activity after 1minute.(b) A radiation detector has a detecting surface area of 2cm

2

.Calculate the initial detected count rate if the distance to thesource of beta radiation is 0.13m.3)(a)

K

4019

has a half life of 1.4

×

10

9

years and forms the stableelement

Ar

4018

.If the ratio K:Ar is 1:3 in a meteorite, how old is the sample?(b) The activity of a substance falls by 37% in 14 hours. If thereare initially 2

×

10

22

nuclei, what is the half-life of thesubstance?(c) A source has a half-life of 120 days and an initial activity of 10

5

Bq. Calculate the activity after 240 days.

Practice Questions

Time

(µ

s) Count rate (Bq)0.012.470.111.400.210.320.39.330.48.450.57.640.66.920.76.260.85.660.95.121.04.641.14.191.23.801.33.431.43.111.52.811.62.541.72.301.82.081.91.882.01.71

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