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Das & Ferbel, Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics (World Scientific, 2003)|Views: 3,446|Likes: 47

Published by Paul Allen Chavit

An introduction to nuclear physics

An introduction to nuclear physics

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https://www.scribd.com/doc/40607147/Das-amp-Ferbel-Introduction-to-Nuclear-and-Particle-Physics-World-Scientific-2003

09/24/2013

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As we have seen, unstable nuclei can often transmute into other nuclei

through the emission of a, /3 or 7 particles. Any such spontaneous transition

from one state to another is known as a radioactive decay, and in this

chapter we will describe some general properties of such processes.

As we mentioned before, radioactive decay can be described as a sta-

tistical process. Namely, if we have a large number of radioactive nuclei,

we cannot say specifically which nucleus will decay at any given time. But

there is a unique constant probability of decay associated with each nu-

cleus. Thus, if N denotes the number of radioactive nuclei of any specified

type, at a given time, and A is the constant probability for decay per unit

time (that is, the decay constant), then the change in the number of nuclei

during an infinitesimal time interval dt is defined by

dN = N(t + dt) - N(t) = -N(t)X dt.

(5.22)

120

Nuclear and Particle Physics

The negative sign in the above equation represents, as usual, the fact that

the number of nuclei decreases as a result of decay. If we assume No to be

the initial number of nuclei at t = 0, then the number of nuclei N(t) at any

later time can be obtained from Eq. (5.22) as

dN

JN0 N

JO

**or In —**fl = -Xt,

or N(t) = Noe~xt.

(5.23)

In other words, for a radioactively decaying system, the number of nuclei

that survive decreases exponentially, and vanishes only at infinite times.

This is the characteristic law for all such statistical decay processes.

There are several time scales that can be associated with a radioactive

system. We can denote by ii the time interval during which half of the

nuclei in the sample decay. It then follows that

N(H) = f=N0e-^,

or Aii = In 2,

and

If the decay constant is known (or can be calculated), then the half-life

ti can be obtained and compared directly with measured values. Another

useful time scale for describing decays is the average or mean life of a

radioactive material. This can be calculated using Eq. (5.23)

(5.24)

Applications of Nuclear Physics

121

fo°°tN(t)dt

()

srmdt

= Nofo°°te-"dt

~ Nof™e-Hdt

= £ 4

(5-25)

where the definite integrals can be performed directly or found in tables

(they are related to "Gamma" functions). Consequently, as we mentioned

in the previous chapter in connection with barrier penetration, the mean

life of the sample is the inverse of the decay constant. Furthermore, r is

related to the half-life through the multiplicative constant In 2 = 0.693.

We noted before that Eq. (5.23) implied that it would take an infinite

amount of time for the total sample to disintegrate. Nevertheless, after

several half-lives, the number of decaying nuclei is often too small to be

detected. The number of disintegrations per unit time, or the activity, of a

material is defined as follows

A(t)= ~ =XN(t) = XNoe-xt.

(5.26)

at

The activity is clearly a function of time and, in fact, also falls off exponen-

tially with time. For example, for 226Ra, whose half-life is 1620 years, we

have ii = 1620yr = 1.62 x 103yr « 1.62 x 103 x 3.1 x 107sec «5x 1010sec.

Consequently,

A=^«^_MUX10-V

(5-27)

ti

5 x 1010sec

2

If the radioactive sample at t = 0 consists of one gram of 226Ra, then the

original number of radioactive nuclei in the sample is

fi * ID23

AT0«^^-«2.7xl021,

(5.28)

lib

and the activity of the sample at t = 0 is consequently

122

Nuclear and Particle Physics

A(t = 0) = \N0

« 1.4 x 10~n x 2.7 x 1021/sec

« 3.7 x 1010 disintegrations/sec.

(5.29)

This initial activity falls off exponentially in time with the same decay

constant as given in Eq. (5.27).

The natural activity of 226Ra has been used to define a unit of radioac-

tivity. Thus, any sample with 3.7 x 1010 disintegrations per second is said

to have a radioactivity of 1 curie (Ci), named after Pierre Curie. Typi-

cal laboratory samples usually have far smaller radioactivities of the order

of a millicurie = 1 m Ci = 10~3 Ci = 3.7 x 107 disintegrations/sec, or a

microcurie = 1 [i Ci = 10~6 Ci = 3.7 x 104 disintegrations/sec. A more

rational unit of activity is known as the rutherford (rd), defined as 106

disintegrations/sec. An activity of 1 micro-rutherford (/xrd) in a material

corresponds therefore to 1 disintegration per second, and is referred to as

one becquerel (Bq).

Example 1

Let us suppose that we have a small sample of radioactive substance that

has a mean life r of 103 seconds. At some time t = 0 we observe 106

disintegrations per second. At a later time t, we would expect from Eq.

(5.26) that the activity would be

A(t) = A(0)e~xt.

Thus if we want the number of disintegrations expected in any 10 sec in-

terval centered on t, this would be

/

t+5

I

dtA{t) = —=• ^(O)e"At|*+J

.-5

^

= rA(0)e~Xt\^ = TA(0) (e"^*"5) - e-*(*+5)) .

Let us suppose that we wish to know AN(t) at t = 1000 sec. Then, for a

10 sec interval centered oni= 1000, we would predict

Applications of Nuclear Physics

123

AAT(IOOO) = TA(0) [e~$£s -e-T$$]

= rA{Q)e~i f eioro - e~Tooo j

In fact, the general expression for an arbitrary At would be

t / At

At\

AN(t) = TA(0) e"r ( e2r - e" 2r j ,

which for At <^C r reduces to

At *

*

AAT(f) « TA(0) — e~ r = .4(0) At e~ r .

T

Clearly, the expected number of disintegrations for our chosen time inter-

val will drop with time. There is, of course, no a priori way of determining

specifically which of our nuclei will disintegrate; we know only the expected

average number of disintegrations. In statistical processes, where the prob-

ability of any occurrence (p) is small, but there is a large sample of events

(N) that can contribute to the process, Poisson statistics can be used to

describe the system. For Poisson statistics, when the expected mean is

AN = pN, then the error or standard deviation on the mean can be shown

to be just yfpN = VAN. (Note that for our chosen interval of At = 10

sec, the probability p = AAt = 10~2

Going back to our specific example, where A AT is 4 x 106, we must now

interpret the predicted result as follows. We can state that, in any given ex-

periment performed to count AiV, we will rarely observe the exact expected

mean number of AN counts. What we will see is that, in about 68% of

such experiments (assuming a Gaussian approximation for the error), the

observed counting rate will fall between AN - VAN and A AT + VAN.

Thus, if we expect AN = 4 x 106 counts, then ^^^ is only 5 x 10~4, so

the fluctuations about the mean will be at the level of « 0.05%. However,

124

*Nuclear and Particle Physics
*

if we wish to look at the counting rate at a somewhat later time of* t* = 104

sec, then* AN(t* = 104) will be far smaller

AiV(104) » 106 x 10 x* e~w* « 450,

and* VA~N* will be « 21, and the relative deviations from the expected value

will therefore be larger and easier to observe.

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