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Exercise 4

SS 2006

Exercise 4

Problem 1: Tunnelling: alpha particle decay (8 points)

From the discussion of transmission through a potential barrier (see lecture notes), we know that contrary to classical intuition there is a non-zero probability for a particle, of energy E to penetrate a potential barrier with V0 > E. We derived the transmission coecient: T = 1+ where k = (2m(V0 E)/ 2 ) 2 .

1

1

2 V0 1 4 E(V0 E)

sinh2 (ka)

(1.1)

(1.2)

This phenomenon of barrier penetration or quantum mechanical tunnelling has important applications in e.g. nuclear physics. We will use this picture to gain information about the emission of alpha particles during radioactive decay:

A Z XN

A4 XN 2 +4 He2+ 2 2 Z2

One can approximate the potential energy of an alpha particle and the residual nucleus by the following potential:

Figure 1-1: Relative potential diagram of an alpha particle and residual nucleus. Inside the nuclear surface the potential is described by a square potential; beyond the surface only the Coulomb force operates. The alpha particle can tunnel through the Coulomb barrier from a to b. Q is the decay energy, i.e. the disintegration energy. There are three regions of interest. For r < a, we are inside the nucleus and the potential energy is given by V0 , where V0 is taken to be a positive number. Seen in a classical picture, the alpha particle can move in this potential but cannot escape from it. The region a < r < b is called the annular shell region and forms the potential barrier for the alpha particle, since it is higher than the total available energy Q. The region r > b is classically allowed since here the kinetic energy is again positive. (i) What is the kinetic energy of the particle for the rst region in the classical picture?

Exercise 4

SS 2006

In previous courses you have come across the exponential law of radioactive decay as a function of time, t: N (t) = N0 et , (1.3)

where N0 is the original number of nuclei, and is the decay constant. In addition, the half life t1/2 gives the time necessary for half of the nuclei to decay t1/2 = 0.693 (1.4)

Through the derivation of the probability for barrier penetration we will study how the half-life depends on the system parameters. The tunnelling probability can be obtained from quantum mechanical calculations by considering the potential in gure 1-1 in a onedimensional setting. Since the Coulomb potential has a V (r) r1 dependence, we cannot use the derivations leading to equation 1.1. However, we can do an approximation. (ii) Give an expression for the Coulomb repulsion barrier V (r), for the alpha particle having charge 2e and the residual nucleus having charge Z e (Z = Z 2 for an alpha particle). What are the barrier heights seen by the alpha particle at r = a and r = b, respectively? What is the barrier height B in MeV for a typical heavy nucleus Z = 90, a = 7.5 fm? (iii) If we now assume the average height of the barrier to be 1 (B + Q) (we model the real 2 potential as a rectangular barrier), the k-value in equation 1.2 is modied. What value do the parameters given in (ii) give for k? Assume Q = 5 and 6 MeV (An alpha particle has mass 4.00150618 u). (iv) The radius, b, at which the alpha particle leaves the barrier is found from the equality of the particles energy and the potential energy at this point. Calculate b for the parameters given in (ii) and (iii).

1 (v) For these small values of a and b one can do the approximation k 2 (b a) equation 1.1 can be written:

1 and

(1.5)

(vi) It can be shown that the decay constant of an alpha emitter is determined by = f P , where f is the frequency at which the alpha particle attacks the barrier. Assuming a value of f = 6 1021 /s, estimate the half life time for Q = 5 MeV and Q = 6 MeV,respectively. Are your results in qualitative agreement with gure 1-2?

Exercise 4

SS 2006

Figure 1-2: The inverse relationship between alpha decay half-life and decay energy.(The GeigerNuttall rule)

We consider solutions (x) of the time-independent Schrdinger equation in one dimension. o Remember that (x) must satisfy the time-independent Schrdinger equation as well as the o conditions: 1. (x) is a continuous function of x. 2.

d(x) dx

3. must be normalizable. Below we consider several piecewise constant potentials. We have sketched wavefunctions (thick lines) that may or may not be allowable solutions. In each case, indicate if the solution is acceptable. If not, indicate what is wrong with the wavefunction. Note: In (h) the wave is incident from the left.

Exercise 4

SS 2006

In this exercise, we will be using Mathematica to visualize how wave packages evolve in time. For this exercise you can download a mathematica template from the course web site (supplemental material section). Make yourself familiar with the functions and answer the questions in the le.

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