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Atomic number = # of protons in nucleus # of nucleons = # of protons + # of



The number of neutrons can vary slightly for a given element (isotopes) Atomic
weight is equal to average number of nucleons in nucleus
Radioactivity: Birth of a new science
Milestones (important events) leading to establishment of nuclear science as a
subject Discovery of X-Rays by W.C. Roentgen XDiscovery of Radioactivity by H.
Becquerel Discovery of Polonium and Radium by Marie and Pierre Curies Discovery of
electron by J.J. Thompson Classification of radioactive emissions by E. Rutherford
Discovery of atomic nucleus by E. Rutherford Enunciation of Rutherford-Soddy
displacement law RutherfordDiscovery of neutron by J. Chadwick Discovery of
artificial radioactivity by Irene and J. Curies Discovery of nuclear fission by O.
Hahn and Strassmann
Atomic Structure
Inner electron shell Proton Nucleus

Neutron Outer electron shell

Relative scale model of an atom and the solar system
Do you perceive a gold ring to contain a larger fraction of solid matter than the
solar system?

On this scale, the nearest star would be a little over 10,000 miles away
Nuclear notation
• Z = atomic number or proton number, is the number of protons in the nucleus. • N
= neutron number, is the number of neutrons in the nucleus. • A = Z + N = mass
number, is the number of nucleons in the nucleus. A • In general, the notation is
Z X N • For example, 12 C6 has atomic mass 12.000 6
Radioactivity • Questions
– How and why do nuclei decay? – How do we use nuclear decay to tell time? – What
is the evidence for presence of now extinct radionuclides in the early solar
system? – How much do you really need to know about secular equilibrium and the U-

• Tools
– First-order ordinary differential equations
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

fermi (f) = 10-15 m

r = 1.2 A1/3 (in f) ------------------------Helium: A = 4 r = 1.2 (4)1/3 = 1.9 f
------------------------Uranium: A = 238 r = 1.2 (238)1/3 = 7.4 f
Protons which would otherwise strongly repel at close distances are held in place
by an extremely strong, but extremely short range force called the strong force.
Other names for the strong force are strong nuclear force, or nuclear force.
STRONG FORCE Protons and neutrons in the nucleus are collectively referred to as
nucleons. The strong force between two protons is about the same as the strong
force between two neutrons, or a proton and a neutron.

Beyond about one fermi the strong force declines extremely rapidly. As more
protons are added to the nucleus, more neutrons are needed to bind the protons
together, but the larger the nucleus becomes, the farther apart are the protons
and the less effective is the strong force
Isotopes: Nuclides with same atomic number but different atomic weight (or
different neutron number) All the nuclides belong to the same element 1 2 3 12 13
1H , 1H (D), 1H (T) 6C , 6C 234, U235, U238 92U 92 92
39 40 41 19K , 19K , 19K

Isobars: Nuclides with same atomic weight but different atomic number (Nuclides
belong to different elements) Ar40, 19K40, 20Ca40 18 Isotones: Nuclides with the
same number of neutrons. 12 13 5B , 6C both have 7 Neutrons Mirror nuclei:
Nuclides with neutron and proton number interchanged N15 and 8O15 7
In general, the mass defect is calculated by summing the mass of protons,
neutrons, and electrons in an atom, and subtracting the atom’s actual atomic mass.
The general formula is: Md = Zmp + Nmn - Ma Where Z is the atomic number, N is the
number of neutrons in the atom, and Ma is the actual measured mass of the atom.
Placing Md into Einstein's equation for relating mass and energy gives the energy
release from forming the atom from its constituent particles: E = Mdc2
Electric force is longer range than the strong force. Eventually separation
becomes too great for the strong force to compensate for the repulsive forces.
Nuclei spontaneously disintegrate for proton numbers larger than 83. The release
of light and or particles which accompanies the disintegration is called
radiation, first discovered by Henri Becquerel in 1896.
Fundamental law of radioactive decay
• Each nucleus has a fixed probability of decaying per unit time. Nothing affects
this probability (e.g., temperature, pressure, bonding environment, etc.)
[exception: very high pressure promotes electron capture slightly]

• This is equivalent to saying that averaged over a large enough number of atoms
the number of decays per unit time is proportional to the number of atoms present.
dN • Therefore in a closed system: (Equation 3.1) = −λN dt
– N = number of parent nuclei at time t – λ = decay constant = probability of
decay per unit time (units: s–1)

• To get time history of number of parent nuclei, (3.2) integrate 3.1: N (t ) = No

– No = initial number of parent nuclei at time t = 0.
• The mean life τ of a parent nuclide is given by the number present divided by
the removal rate (recall this
later when we talk about residence time):




– This is also the “e-folding” time of the decay:

N(τ ) = No e

= Noe

No = e

• The half life t1/2 of a nucleus is the time after which half the parent remains:
No ln 2 .693 −λt1/2 ⇒ λt1/ 2 = ln2 ⇒ t1/2 = (3.3) N(t1/ 2 ) = = Noe ≈ 2 λ λ • The
activity is decays per unit time, denoted by parentheses: ( N ) = λN (3.4)
Decay of parent


-1 -2 -3 -4 -5


λNo 2 λNo e

slope = -1

t 1/2 τ


t 1/2 τ


Some dating schemes only consider measurement of parent nuclei because initial
abundance is somehow known.
• cosmic rays create a roughly constant atmospheric 14C inventory, so that living
matter has a roughly constant 14C/C ratio while it exchanges CO2 with the
environment through photosynthesis or diet. After death this 14C decays with half
life 5730 years. Hence even through the daughter 14N is not retained or measured,
age is calculated using: 14


ln 14 λ14 ( C) / C

( C) / C

Modes of decay
• A nucleus will be radioactive if by decaying it can lower the overall mass,
leading to larger (negative) nuclear binding energy
– Yet another manifestation of the 2nd Law of thermodynamics

• Nuclei can spontaneously transform to lower mass nuclei by one of five processes
– – – – – α-decay β-decay positron emission electron capture spontaneous fission

• Each process transforms a radioactive parent nucleus into one or more daughter
Emission of an α-particle or 4He nucleus (2 neutrons, 2 protons)
# pr ot ons

92 91 90


The parent decreases its mass number by 4, atomic number by 2. Example: 238U ->
234Th + 4He Mass-energy budget: 238U 238.0508 amu 234Th –234.0436 4He –4.00260
mass defect 0.0046 amu = 0.0046 x 930.5 = 4.5 MeV

2 2 2 2 2 35 35
# n

23 23 8

144 145 146 # neutrons

2 23

23 23 7 7 7 7 3 3 3 36 4 4

on le uc

AX → A−4Y + 4He Z Z −2 2

X is called the parent nucleus and Y is called the daughter nucleus

This is the preferred decay mode of nuclei heavier than 209Bi with a
proton/neutron ratio along the valley of stability
Emission of an electron (and an antineutrino) during conversion of a neutron into
a proton The mass number does not change, β-decay the atomic number increases by
38 37

# prot ons


8 88
n eo l uc s

49 50 # neutrons

Example: 87Rb -> 87Sr + e– + ν Mass-energy budget: 87Rb 86.909186 amu 87Sr –
86.908882 mass defect 0.0003 amu = 0.0003 x 931 = 0.28 MeV

The emission of the electron is from the nucleus The nucleus contains protons and
neutrons The process occurs when a neutron is transformed into a proton and an
electron Energy must be conserved

This is the preferred decay mode of nuclei with excess neutrons compared to the
valley of stability

87 87 86 86 86 86
Beta Decay
• Symbolically

X→ Y + e + ν
A X→ Z−1Y + e + + ν

A Z +1

– ν is the symbol for the neutrino – ν is the symbol for the antineutrino

• To summarize, in beta decay, the following pairs of particles are emitted

– An electron and an antineutrino – A positron and a neutrino
β+-decay and electron capture
Emission of a positron (and a neutrino) or capture of an inner-shell electron
during conversion of a proton into a neutron Electron Capture The mass number does
not change, 19 K the atomic number decreases by 1.
# prot ons



n eo cl s

21 22 # neutrons


Examples: 40K -> 40Ar + e+ + ν 50V+ e– -> 50Ti + ν + γ

In positron emission, most energy is liberated by remote matter-antimatter
annihilation. In electron capture, a gamma ray carries off the excess energy.

4 41 4 4 0 0 39 39 39 39

These are the preferred decay modes of nuclei with excess protons compared to the
valley of stability
Gamma Decay
• Gamma rays are given off when an excited nucleus “falls” to a lower energy state
– Similar to the process of electron “jumps” to lower energy states and giving off

• The excited nuclear states result from “jumps” made by a proton or neutron • The
excited nuclear states may be the result of violent collision or more likely of an
alpha or beta emission • Example of a decay sequence 12 B→12 C * + e − + ν 5 6
– The first decay is a beta emission 12 C*→12 C + γ 6 6 – The second step is a
gamma emission
Spontaneous Fission
Certain very heavy nuclei, particular those with even mass numbers (e.g., 238U and
244Pu) can spontaneously fission. Odd-mass heavy nuclei typically only fission in
response to neutron capture (e.g., 235U, 239Pu)
10 235 1


There is no fixed daughter product but rather a statistical distribution of

fission products with two peaks (most fissions are asymmetric). Because of the
curvature of the valley of stability, most fission daughters have excess neutrons
and tend to be radioactive (β-decays). You can see why some of the isotopes people
worry about in nuclear fallout are 91Sr and 137Cs. Recoil of daughter products
leave fission tracks of damage in crystals about 10 µm long, which only heal above
~300°C and are therefore useful for low-temperature thermochronometry.

Fission Yield ( %)






Atomic Mass (amu)





Natural Radioactivity
• Classification of nuclei – Unstable nuclei found in nature • Give rise to
natural radioactivity – Nuclei produced in the laboratory through nuclear
reactions • Exhibit artificial radioactivity • Three series of natural
radioactivity exist – Uranium-235 (4n + 3 series) Uraniumends at Pb-207 Pb–
Uranium-238 (4n + 2 series) Uraniumends at Pb-206 Pb– Thorium-232 (4n series)
Thoriumends at Pb-208 Pb4n + 1 series starting from Neptunium-237 is extinct
Neptuniumends at Bi-209 Bi-
Uses of Radioactivity
• Carbon Dating – Beta decay of 14C is used to date organic samples – The ratio of
14C to 12C is used • Smoke detectors – Ionization type smoke detectors use a
radioactive source to ionize the air in a chamber – A voltage and current are
maintained – When smoke enters the chamber, the current is decreased and the alarm
sounds • Radon pollution – Radon is an inert, gaseous element associated with the
decay of radium – It is present in uranium mines and in certain types of rocks,
bricks, etc that may be used in home building – May also come from the ground
Nuclear Reactions
• Structure of nuclei can be changed by bombarding them with energetic particles
– The changes are called nuclear reactions

• As with nuclear decays, the atomic numbers and mass numbers must balance on both
sides of the equation
Which of the following are possible reactions?

(a) and (b). Reactions (a) and (b) both conserve total charge and total mass
number as required. Reaction (c) violates conservation of mass number with the sum
of the mass numbers being 240 before reaction and being only 223 after reaction.
Determine the product of the reaction What is the Q value of the reaction?

7 Li + 4 He → X ? + n Y 3 2

Given: reaction

In order to balance the reaction, the total amount of nucleons (sum of A-numbers)
must be the same on both sides. Same for the Z-number. Number of nucleons (A):
Number of protons (Z): Thus, it is B, i.e.
7 3

7 + 4 = X + 1 ⇒ X = 10 3+ 2 = Y + 0 ⇒ Y = 5

Find: Q=? The Q-value is then

4 Li + 2 He → 10 B + 01n 5

Q = ( ∆m ) c 2 = m7 Li + m 4 He − m10 B − mn c 2 = −2.79MeV

Processes of Nuclear Energy
• Fission
– A nucleus of large mass number splits into two smaller nuclei

• Fusion
– Two light nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus

• Large amounts of energy are released in either case

Nuclear Fission
• A heavy nucleus splits into two smaller nuclei • The total mass of the products
is less than the original mass of the heavy nucleus • First observed in 1939 by
Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman following basic studies by Fermi • Lisa Meitner and
Otto Frisch soon explained what had happened • Fission of 235U by a slow (low
energy) neutron
1 0

n+ 235 U→236 U* → X + Y + neutrons 92 92

– 236U* is an intermediate, short-lived state – X and Y are called fission

• Many combinations of X and Y satisfy the requirements of conservation of energy
and charge
Sequence of Events in Fission

• The 235U nucleus captures a thermal (slow-moving) neutron • This capture results
in the formation of 236U*, and the excess energy of this nucleus causes it to
undergo violent oscillations • The 236U* nucleus becomes highly elongated, and the
force of repulsion between the protons tends to increase the distortion • The
nucleus splits into two fragments, emitting several neutrons in the process
Natural (radioactive) decay (fission) Neutron-induced fission
• Many heavy elements (eg. Uranium) decay (slowly) into lighter elements (natural
decay) • However, this fission can also be induced by an incoming neutron. •
Fission reaction release a lot of energy. • Fission often creates new neutrons!!
Fission and chain reaction

Fission releases neutrons … … these neutrons cause new fission reactions in

surrounding Uranium … … creating more neutrons … … chain reaction
Energy in a Fission Process
• Binding energy for heavy nuclei is about 7.2 MeV per nucleon • Binding energy
for intermediate nuclei is about 8.1 MeV per nucleon • Therefore, the fission
fragments have less mass than the nucleons in the original nuclei • This decrease
in mass per nucleon appears as released energy in the fission event • An estimate
of the energy released – Assume a total of 236 nucleons – Releases about 0.9 MeV
per nucleon • 8.1 MeV – 7.2 MeV – Total energy released is about 212 Mev • This is
very large compared to the amount of energy released in chemical processes
Chain Reaction
• Neutrons are emitted when 235U undergoes fission • These neutrons are then
available to trigger fission in other nuclei • This process is called a chain
reaction –If uncontrolled, a violent explosion can occur –The principle behind the
nuclear bomb, where 1 g of U can release energy equal to about 20000 tons of TNT
Carbon dating is a variety of radioactive dating which is applicable only to
matter which was once living and presumed to be in equilibrium with the
atmosphere, taking in carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis. Cosmic ray
protons blast nuclei in the upper atmosphere, producing neutrons which in turn
bombard nitrogen, the major constituent of the atmosphere . This neutron
bombardment produces the radioactive isotope carbon-14. carbonThe radioactive
carbon-14 combines with carbonoxygen to form carbon dioxide and is incorporated
into the cycle of living things. things. The carbon-14 forms at a rate which
appears to be constant, so that by carbonmeasuring the radioactive emissions from
once-living matter and oncecomparing its activity with the equilibrium level of
living things, a measurement of the time elapsed can be made. made.
Radioactive Dating
Radioactive half-life of a given radioisotope is not affected halfby temperature,
physical or chemical state, or any other influence of the environment outside the
nucleus. nucleus. Radioactive samples continue to decay at a predictable rate.
rate. This makes several types of radioactive dating feasible. feasible. There are
two main uncertainties in the dating process: process: 1. What was the amount of
the daughter element when the rocks were formed? 2. Have any of the parent or
daughter atoms been added or removed during the process?
Balancing Nuclear Decay Equations
238 92U

--------> 90Th234 + 2He4 ----------------------------------------Subscripts are

"proton numbers" Superscripts are "nucleon numbers"

Proton and nucleon counts must be the same: 92 = 90 + 2 238 = 234 + 4

Distribution of Energy in Alpha Emission

∆m = 0.0046 u E = 0.0046 x 931 = 4.3 MeV ----------------------Which particle has

the greater kinetic energy?
Energy Distribution in Radioactive Decay Conservation of momentum: Mv = mV Ratio
of kinetic energies: KEm / KEM: (1/2 mV2) / (1/2 Mv2) = (m/M)(V2/v2) = (m/M)(V/v)2


Rearranging, we get V/v = M/m (3) Substitute (3) into (1): Ratio = (m/M)(M/m)2 (4)
= M/m Smaller mass gets more energy
Smoke Detector

Alpha particles emitted from source ionize the air and provide the charge
necessary to conduct current through the air. Charges stick to the heavy smoke
particles and the current drops, causing the alarm to buzz.
Wavelength of a Gamma Ray What is the wavelength of a 1 MeV gamma ray? Using the
1234 rule: λ = 1234 eV-nm / E = 1234 eV-nm / 1 x 106 eV = 1.23 x 10-6 nm = 1.23 x
10-15 m = 1.23 fermi This gamma radiation is extraordinarily harmful to humans and
other living things since its wavelength is comparable to the diameter of a
nucleon; transmutations are likely when such radiation reaches nuclei.
Measuring the Age of Organic Matter

A German tourist in the Italian Alps discovered the remains of the "Iceman" in the
ice of a glacier in 1991
Calculating the Iceman's Age

The current activity per gram of carbon is 0.23 Bq per gram. Iceman's carbon
showed 0.121, or about half what it would be if the Iceman were alive. Since the
half-life of carbon-14 is about 5700 years, the Iceman's remains are about 5700
years old.
The Shroud of Turin Since the1354 AD, a yellowing piece of linen 14-ft long has
been stored in Turin, Italy. It bears the image of a person who seems to be
wearing a crown of thorns. Could the Shroud of Turin have been the burial cloth of
a person who died two thousand years ago?
Dating of the Shroud of Turin
At the time of the public exhibition of the shroud in 1354, a bishop declared it
to be fraud. Most religious bodies take a neutral stance on the shroud's
authenticity. In 1988, three laboratories were given four pieces of fabric; three
were control pieces similar in appearance, and one was a piece from the shroud.
The labs all agreed that the shroud was 608728 years old, which means that it came
into existence sometime between1260 and 1380 AD, a time span which includes the
year the shroud was first shown to the public.
In 1934, Irene and Frederic Joliot-Curie discover the artificial radioactivity,
making a great step toward the use and the control of radioactivity. For this
discovery, they received the Nobel price of chemistry in 1935. They were the first
to show that mankind could build under control some news radioactive nuclei. By
shooting an aluminium sheet with alpha particles (helium nuclei), they were able
to make radioactive phosphorus, a new isotope of the stable phosphorus that was
never observed in nature. They demonstrated it by chemically isolating the
phosphorus produced before it becomes silicium by its radioactivity. The creation
an unnatural radioactive element is what we call the creation of artificial
In 1930 Paul Dirac calculated the existence of electrons with positive charges.
These "anti-electrons" would be expected to have the same mass as the electron,
but opposite electric charge. In 1932 Carl Anderson was examining tracks produced
by cosmic rays in a cloud chamber. One particle made a track like an electron, but
the curvature of its path in the magnetic field showed that it was positively
charged. He named this positive electron a positron. We know that the particle
Anderson detected was the anti-electron predicted by Dirac. An electron and
positron annihilate one another producing two gamma rays (β- + β+® γ + γ). Irene
Curie-Joliot (1897-1956), the daughter of Marie & Pierre, and her husband Frédéric
Joliot prepared phosphorus-30 by bombarding aluminum with alpha particles..

Phosphorus-30 does not occur in nature and is radioactive. This was the first
artificial radioactive substance ever prepared. Aside from the three natural types
of radioactivity (α,β,γ), artificially made nuclei can undergo: Both positron
emission and electron capture tend to occur for radioactive isotopes that need to
convert a proton into a neutron. The Curie-Joliots were awarded the Nobel Prize in
Chemistry in 1935 for discovering artificial radioactivity.
Chemical Reaction

Nuclear reaction

Atoms are rearranged by Elements (or isotopes of the breaking and formation the
same elements) are of chemical bonds converted from one to another Only electrons
in atomic Protons, neutrons, orbitals are involved in the electrons and other
breaking and forming of elementary particles may bonds be involved Absorption or
release of Absorption or release of small amounts of energy tremendous amounts of
energy Rates of reactions are Rates of reactions are NOT affected by temperature,
affected by temperature, pressure, concentration pressure, concentration and
catalysts and catalysts
Producing Radioactive Isotopes: TRANSMUTATION is the process of changing one
element into another. A stable atom can be bombarded with fast-moving a particles,
protons, or neutrons. A radioactive isotope is called a RADIOISOTOPE.
Half-Life: The HALF-LIFE of a radioisotope is the amount of time it takes for half
of the sample to decay. A DECAY CURVE is a graph of the decay of a radioisotope
(amount vs. time). Some radioisotopes have long half-lives. For other
radioisotopes, the half-life can be short.
Radioactivity Penetrating power of different forms of radiation:
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Chemical reactions
CH4 + 2O2 CO2 + 2H2O + some energy

One molecule or element reacts with another one. Get a rearrangement (different
combination) of elements.

No new elements are created (C, H, O before and C, H, O after)

– a nuclear reaction As an example, when uranium 238 emits an alpha particle, it
loses 2 protons and 2 neutrons.

238 92

U −− >

234 90

Th + He

4 2

– Nuclear reactions must balance just like any other chemical reaction, but we
must also be aware of balancing protons and neutrons
Nuclear Reactions
Nuclear reactions occur when a nucleus is struck by a particle or other nucleus.

4H 2

14 7


1 4C 6
1 7O 8

1 + 1H


14 N 7

•The second reaction was observed by Rutherford and is the first nuclear reaction
observed. •It should be noted that in the first reaction, the neutron can enter
the nucleus with very little energy but the 4He is repelled by the nucleus and
thus has to overcome the Coulomb barrier in order to come close enough to cause a
nuclear reaction.
Parameter Reaction Mechanism Species Energy change

Chemical Reaction H + H → H2 Interaction of electrons Do not change

Nuclear Reaction H + H → 2H (D) Interaction of nuclei New species form

∆H = 104.2 kCal/mol Q = 33.47 x 106 1.73 x 10-22 kCal.atom kCal/mol 5.56 x 10-17
kCal/atom (4.5 eV/atom) (1.452 MeV/atom) Conservatio Maintained Maintained n of
mass and energy
Radioactivity in Nature Our world is radioactive and has been since it was created
Over 60 radionuclides (radioactive isotopes) can be found in nature. Radionuclides
are found in air, water, food and soil Radionuclides are even found in our body
Everyday we ingest and inhale radionuclides

In addition to radionuclides found in nature We have Cosmogenic radionuclides:

formed as a result of cosmic ray interactions Man-made radionuclides

Number of radionuclides > 2000 Number of elements: 111

Natural Radioactivity in soil How much natural radioactivity is found in a volume
of soil that is 2.6 sq KM, 30 cm deep (total volume = 7.894 x 105 m3)

Every day, we ingest/inhale nuclides in our air we breath, in the food we eat and
the water we drink. Radioactivity is common in the rocks and soil that makes up
our planet, in the water and oceans, and even in our building materials and homes.
It is just everywhere. There is no where on Earth that you can get away from
Natural Radioactivity. Radioactive elements are often called radioactive isotopes
or radionuclides. There are over 1,500 different radioactive nuclides
Natural Radioactivity in Food
Food Banana Carrot White potatoes Beer Red meat Drinking water




3,520 3,400 3,400 390 3,000 -----

1 0.6 - 2 1 – 2.5 ---0.5 0 – 0.17

Handbook of radiation measurement and protection

Radionuclides in building materials

Material Granite Sandstone Cement Limestone concrete Sandstone concrete Dry

wallboard Byproduct gypsum Natural gypsum Wood Clay brick

Uranium (µg/g) (µg/g) 4.7 0.45 3.4 2.3 0.8 1 13.7 1.1 8.2

Thorium (µg/g) (µg/g) 2 1.7 5.1 2.1 2.1 3 16.1 1.8 10.8

Potassium (µg/g) (µg/g) 4 1.4 0.8 0.3 1.3 0.3 0.02 0.5 11.3 2.3
Some radionuclides in human body
Nuclide Total mass Total of nuclide activity in the body 90 µg 30 µg 1.1 Bq 0.11
Bq 4.4 kBq 1.1 Bq 15 kBq 23 Bq Daily intake 1.9 µg 3 µg 0.39 mg 2.3 pg 1.8 µg
0.003 pg

Uranium Thorium

Potassium- 17 mg 40 Radium 31 pg Carbon-14 95 µg Tritium 0.06 pg