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Nuclear Engineering
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The number of atoms or molecules (n) in a mass (m) of a pure material having atomic or molecular

weight (M) is easily computed from the following equation using Avogadro's number (NAv = 6.022×1023

atoms or molecules per gram-mole):

m N Av

n= (1)

M

In some situations, the atomic number density (N), which is the concentration of atoms or molecules per

unit volume (V), is an easier quantity to find when the density (ρ) is given

n ρ N Av

N= = (2)

V M

For a chemical compound (mixture) Z, which is composed of elements X and Y, the number (atom) density

of the compound is calculated from

ρ mix N Av

N Z = N mix = (3)

M mix

In some cases, the desired quantity is the number density of the compound constituents. Specifically, if

Z = X p Yq , then there are p atoms of X and q atoms of Y for every molecule of Z; hence

N X = p NZ

(4)

NY = q N Z

Example: Calculate the number density of natural uranium in UO2 with ρUO2 = 10.5 g/cm 3 .

ρ UO2 N Av (10.5 g/cm 3 )(6.022 × 10 23 atoms/mole)

N U = N UO2 = = = 2.34 × 10 22 atoms/cm 3

M UO 2 [238.0289 + 2(15.9994)] g/mole

Oftentimes, it is necessary to compute the concentration of an individual isotope j given its fractional

presence (abundance) γj in the element

Number of atoms of isotope j

γj= (5)

Total number of atoms of the element

Many times, the fraction γj is stated as an atom percent, which is abbreviated a/o. The atomic number

density of isotope j is then

γ j ρ elem N Av

N j = γ j N elem = (6)

M elem

If the element has a non-natural abundance of its isotopes (that is, the elemental material is either enriched

or depleted), then it is necessary to compute the atomic weight of the element (Melem) from the sum of all the

atomic weights of the isotopes (Mj) rather than use the tabulated Melem value found in a reference

M elem = ∑ γ j M j (7)

Example: Find the U-235 concentration for 3 a/o in UO2.

Solution: To solve this example, Equations 4, 3 and 7 are progressively substituted into Eq. 6.

N U − 235 = γ U −235 N U = γ U-235 N UO2

ρ UO2 N Av γ U −235 ρ UO2 N Av

= γ U − 235 =

M UO2 γ 238 M 238 + γ 235 M 235 + 2 M O

(10.5 g/cm 3 )(6.022 × 10 23 atoms/mole) atoms − U 235

= 0.03

[(238)(0.97) + (235)(0.03) + 2(16)] g/mole atoms − U

= 7.03 × 10 20 atoms/cm 3

Other times, when working with nuclear fuels such as uranium, the enrichment may be specified in terms of

weight percent or weight fraction, ωi, of isotope i:

Mass of isotope i

ωi = (8)

Total mass of the element

The atomic number density of isotope i is

ρ i N Av ω i ρ elem N Av

Ni = = (9)

Mi Mi

Clearly, if the material is enriched, then the atomic weight of the material differs from its natural reference

value, and the enriched atomic weight, if needed, should be computed from

1 ωi

=∑ (10)

M elem i Mi

Solution: First compute the molecular weight of the enriched uranium, which is basically 4% U-235

and 96% U-238 since the U-234 component is negligible.

1 ω ω 0.04 0.96

= U − 235 + U − 238 = +

M U M U − 235 M U − 238 235 238

M U = 237.9 g/g ⋅ mole

MU

Next, use Equation 9 and the fact that ρ U = ρ UO2

M UO 2

ω U −235 ρ U N Av ω U −235 N Av MU

N U − 235 = = ρ UO2

M U −235 M U −235 M UO2

g ⋅ U 235 (6.022 × 10 23 atoms/mole)(10.5 g ⋅ UO 2 /cm 3 ) 237.9 g ⋅ U

= 0.04

g⋅U 235 g ⋅ U 235 /mole [237.9 + 2(16)]g ⋅ UO 2

= 9.49 × 10 20 atoms/cm 3

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