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Study Unit 7

Nuclear Physics
Contents A. The Nuclear Atom
Mass Number and Atomic Number Isotopes Alpha Decay Beta Decay Gamma Decay Nuclear Equations Atomic Mass Unit (u) Einstein's Mass-Energy Equation Binding Energy and Mass Defect Questions for Practice N-Z Curve Binding Energy per Nucleon Curve Nuclear Fission Nuclear Fusion Rutherford's Alpha-Particle Deflection Experiment

Page
196

B.

Radioactive Decay
Exponential Decay Half-Life,T1 2 Decay Constant l The Becquerel (Bq) Background Radiation Radiation Identification Deflection of Alpha, Beta and Gamma Radiations by Magnetic Fields Deflection by Electric Fields Cloud Chamber Radioisotope Uses Radioactive Experiment Safety

206

Revision and Examination Practice Questions

216

196

Nuclear Physics

A. THE NUCLEAR ATOM


Mass Number and Atomic Number
Nucleon number (mass number) A is the number of nuclear particles (i.e. neutrons + protons) in the nucleus. Proton number (atomic number) Z is the number of protons in the nucleus. For a neutral atom, the number of protons will equal the number of electrons.

We write these numbers as follows: Nucleon number X Proton number where X is the chemical symbol of the element; e.g.
12 6

Example Give the composition in terms of the numbers of neutrons, protons and electrons for each of the following neutral atoms:
235
(a)

234

U.
9:2

(b)

90

Th.

(c)
:2

He.

(d)

H.
1

Answer (a) 92 protons 235 - 92 = 143 neutrons 92 electrons 2 protons 4 - 2 = 2 neutrons 2 electrons (b) 90 protons 234 - 90 = 144 neutrons 90 electrons 1 proton 1 - 1 = 0 neutrons 1 electron

(c)

(d)

Isotopes
Isotopes are atoms with the same atomic number (i.e. they are the same element) but have a different mass number. Isotopes have identical chemical properties but slightly different physical properties.

Nuclear Physics
Example Chlorine has an atomic number of 17 and an atomic weight of 35.46. There are two naturally occurring isotopes of chlorine with mass numbers 35 and 37. Calculate the ratio of the two isotopes. Answer Because the atomic weight is nearer 35 than 37, the Cl35 isotope is more abundant. Letting there be X atoms of Cl3s to 1 atom of Cl37: Weight of Cl3s atoms

197

35 x X

Weight of Cl37 atom = 37 x 1 Total weight of atoms Now, Atomic weight = Total number of atoms

1 X 37
(X

+ 35
+
1)

X X

=----

35X + 37 (X + 1)

But Atomic weight = 35.46

35.46

35X + 37
(x

1)

Rearranging gives X = 3 (it has to be a whole number). Thus, ratio of Cl3s to Cl37 is 3 : 1.

Alpha Decay
Alpha particles are nuclei of helium atoms consisting of 2 protons, 2 neutrons and no electrons. They have a 'charge. They may be writtenin equations as 4He.

f2

4-4

When a nucleus emits an alpha: Its nucleon number decreases by 4 Its proton number decreases by 2

Beta Decay
ta particles are electrons travelling at high speeds. They are produced by a changing into a proton and (lf 1.electron. The proton is retained by the nucleus and the electron is emitted from the nucleus as a beta particle.
0 0

Beta particles are written in equations as

j3 or
-1

e.
-1

198

Nuclear Physics
When a nucleus emits a beta parlicle: Its nucleon number stays the same Its proton number increases by one

Gamma Decay
Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation emitted from unstable nuclei. They enable unstable nuclei to lose excess energy. When a nucleus gives out gamma rays there is no change in either the proton or nucleon numbers.

Nuclear Equations
Two important points: The sum of the nucleon numbers on both sides of the equation must be equal. The sum of the proton numbers on both sides must also be equal, e.g: 226 222
86

Ra------- 88 '.

Rn

Example Find the proton and nucleon number in !_he following reactions. Using these numbers, suggest what each particle might be.
14
4

17

(a)

N
7

He --------
2 ,8

i
1.
X

(b)

H
1

He
2

24

(c)
11

Na

27 He
12

Mg

Answer
1

(a)

X = a proton p
1

'.,.

Nuclear Physics
0

199

(b)

= =

e or

jJ i.e. a beta parlide


-1

(c)

a proton

\11',\) Atomic Mass

Unit (u)

One atomic mass unit (1 amu) is the mass of 1tl 2th of a carbon-12 atom. 12 ( _ 6 02 X 1023)g

One atom of carbon-12 has mass


.

-X

Hence 1 u =

12

12 1023)g

(6.02

= 1.66 , X 10- 27 kg Einstein's Mass-Energy Equation


A mass, m kg, is equivalent to an amount of energy, E joules, given by the equation

E = mc;l ,
where c is the velocity of light, i.e. 3.0 x 108 ms -1 Hence 1 U :::: 1.66 X 10;-27 X (3 X 108)2 = 1.49 X 10-10 J Also 1 u = 1.49
X

10-10

Electronic charge 1.49 X 10-10

1.60 X 10-19 9.31


X

=
Hence 1 u

108 eV

931 MeV

Binding Energy and Mass Defect


The mass of a nucleus is always less than the masses of its constituent particles, and the difference in the masses is called the mass defect. Mass Defect

Mass of constituent particles protons)

Mass of nucleus (neutrons and

The above equation may be used if the masses of the electrons may be neglected. For more accurate work it is necessary to take them into account, and the equation then becomes:
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Nuclear Physics

Mass Defect

Mass of constituent particles - Mass of atom (electrons, neutrons and protons)

This reduction in mass is equivalent to an amount of energy called the binding energy which is the energy released when a nucleus is formed from its constituent particles. In order to split up the nucleus into itsconstituent particles, the binding energy would need to be supplied. The equation for a possible fission reaction 235

92 ' '

95 Mo 42

139 La 57

2n
0

-1

fJ

If the masses of the electrons may be neglected, calculate, using the following data, the energy released per atom of fission for the above reaction: Mass of n
I

= =

1.009u

139 La 57 ' 235 92 95 42 1U Mo

138.906 u

u =

235.044 u

94.906 u

1.66

1Q-27 kg

Speed of light = 3 x 108 ms-1 Avogadro number = 6.02 x 1023 moJ-1


'1
!

Answer
The equation is divided into two parts and the total mass on each side of the equation is found:

Reactants
235 92 1 n
0

Products
95 Mo 42 139 La 57 1 2 n
0

235.044 1.009

94.906 138.906

2.018 235.83 u

236.053 u

. . -:;::. .

Nuclear Physics

201

Mass def ect

== 236.053 - 235.83 = 0.223 u


0.233
X

1.66

10-27 kg = 3.70

10-28 kg

This corresponds to an energy, E, given by:

mc2 3.70 3.33'


X X

10-28 X (3 1Q-11 j

108):!

The above energy is the energy released pe,r U atom.


'<

235.044 g of U atoms = 1 mole which contains 6.02 x 1023 atoms 6.02 1 g of U contains
X

1023

235.044

= 2.56 x 1021 atoms

Hence energy rele sed by 1 g = 3.33 x 10- 11 x 2.56 x 1021

8.5

1010 J

{QUESTIONS FOR PRACTICE


1.

>'

The isotope of oxygen 0-17, has a mass of 17.00454 u. If the mass of a neutron is 1.00898 u and the mass of a proton is 1.00814 u, calculate the binding energy of the oxygen nucleus in MeV. (1 u = 931 MeV) Calcuiate the binding energy per nucleon in the helium, He, nucleus given the following data: Mass of proton = 1.00814 u Mass of neutron = 1.00898 u Mass of helium nucleus = 4.0015 u (1 u = 931 MeV)

2.

"
I

3.

A thorium atom of mass 232.038 u decays by the emission of one alpha particle to

a radium atom of mass 228.031 u. If the alpha particle has a mass of 4.003 u, how much energy, in J, is released during this process?
(1 u

1.66 x 10-27 kg and the speed of light= 3 x 108m s-'-1)

4.

Calculale how much energy in joules is released during the fusion reaction represented by:
2
3

He

+
0

Use the following data for your calculation:

202

Nuclear Physics Speed of light = 3.0


2

108m s-1

Mass of
1

H
3

3.345 x 10-27 kg

H
1 4

5.008

10-27 kg

He= 6.647
2
1

10-27kg

n
0

1.675 x 10-27 kg

5.

During a fusion reaction, isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) fuse together to form a helium nucleus and a neutron according to the following equation:
2

H
1

H
1

He
2

+
0

If the energy released per atom during the fusion process is 2.88 x 10-12 J, calculate the mass of the helium nucleus produced in the reaction using the following data:
2

Mass of
3

H nucleus
1

'!!::::

3.345 x 10-27 kg

Mass of Mass of
0

H nucleus = 5.008 x 10-27 kg


1
1

= 1.675 x 10-27 kg 3.00 x 108m s-1

Speed of light

N-Z Curve
Look at the Figure 7.1 which is a plot of the number of neutrons against the number of protons for all known isotopes:

Nuclear Physics

20:>

Number of neutrons 160

13- emitters

12.0 100

80

40

2.0

00 --------- -------- ----------L--------60


80

Nurnberof protons Z

Figure 7.1
Stable nuclei follow a curve. At first, light isotopes having less than 20 protons follow the straight line N = Z, so they have the same numbers of protons and neutrons. As the atomic mass increases, for the nuclei to be stable they need to have a greater number of neutrons than protons. Above this area, when the nuclei become large, their instability increases and they decay by negative beta emission. These nuclei have a much greater number of neutrons and so convert some of these into protons with the emission of a negative beta particle. The nuclei having too many protons compared to neutrons can gain stability by a proton changing into a neutron, with the emission of a positively-charged beta particle called a positron.

nding Energy per Nucleon Curve


Since a small nucleus has only a small binding energy compared to a large nucleus, in order to compare binding energies for different nuclides it is best to compare the binding energy per nucleon. To work this value out we divide the total binding energy for the nucleus by the number of nucleons. For most nuclides the binding energy is between 7 and 9 MeV per nucleon but some of the lighter nuclei have binding energies smaller than these values. The stable nuclei are near the top Of the graph since the greater the binding energy the greater the energy which has been lost in forming the nucleus, and the lower the energy of. the nucleus, which in turn makes it more stable. Figure 7.2 shows the binding energy per nucleon curve:

2M

Nuclear Physics

iO

Binding energy per nucleon 8 (MeV/nucleon)


6

0 0----40 ----80 120---- -----L------160 200 240


Figure 7.2

Number of nucleons

Nuclear Fission
Nuclear fission .involves a heavy nucleus splitting into two lighter nuclei with the release of a large amount of energy. When a U- 235 nucleus is involved in fission, about 188 MeV of energy is released. Most of this energy provides the kinetic energy of the fission fragments and the r st of it is given out as thermal energy. Fission of uranium is brought about by slow thermal neutrons being absorbed by the nucleus to form an unstable U- 239 nucleus which splits in two, with the release of two or three fast-moving neutrons.

fuclear Fusion
Fusion involves the joining together of two light nuclei to form a new heavier nucleus. For example, the isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) can fuse together to form helium according to the following reaction:
2
3
4 1

H
1

H
1 2

He

+
0

On the production of one helium atom in this way, about 17.6 MeV of energy are released. Very high temperatures are needed to produce fusion.

Rutherford's Alpha-Particle Deflection Experiment


Evidence for the existence of the nucleus was provided by Rutherford's experiment which investigated the scattering of alpha particles by thin gold foil.

Nuclear Physics 2os Example (a) State the results of experiments on the scattering of alpha particles by a thin foil. Explain the importance of these results. In such experiments explain: (i) Why the foil should be thin and point out any differences in the results for foils of different materials Why the alpha particles incident on the foil should be in a narrow parallel beam How the scattered alpha particles might be detected

(b)

(ii)

(iii) (c)

An alpha particle travels directly towards a nucleus which may be assumed to remain stationary. Describe in qualitative terms how, during the motion, the kinetic energy and the potential energy of the alpha particle may vary with the separation bet.;veen the alpha particle and the nucleus.

Answer

V"

(a)

In the experiment a thin beam of alpha particles was directed at a thin piece of gold foil. The apparatus was evacuated owing to the fact that alpha particles only have a range of 5 em in air. The alpha particles, after interacting with the foil, were detected as flashes of light on a scintillation detector which could be moved around on a turntable. Figure 7.3 shows the arrangement:

O(;partide source

,.-scintillation
det:ector

gold foil

Figure 7.3 The results of the experiment were:

Most of the alpha particles went straight through the foil with little or no deviation. Some of the alpha particles were scattered through angles of between 20 and 90. A few (about 1 in 8000) were deflected by more than 90. They were therefore scattered back towards the incident beam.

The importance of these results is that they: Showed that most of the atom was empty space.

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Nuclear Physics

Indicated that there was a concentration of mass and positive charge at the centre of the atom. The large angle scattering was due Lo electrostatic repulsion between the positively-charged alpha particle and nucleus. The alphas which 'bounce' back have met the nucleus 'head-on'. The fact that this happens very rarely indicates how small the nucleus must be. (b) (i) Alpha particles are absorbed by a thin sheet of paper. It is necessary for the gold to be thin so the alphas can pass through. Different materials may be used but they should have a high atomic number (to increase the charge on the nucleus) and be able to be beaten into thin sheets. Narrow beams are used so the scattering angle can be measured accurately.

(ii)

(iii) When alpha particles hit a screen coated with zinc sulphide, a flash of light called a scintillation is produced. The scintillat.ion detector is mounted on a turntable and the alphas scattered at various angles may be detected in a fixed interval. As the alpha particle approaches the nucleus, it loses kinetic energy owing to it having to do work against the repulsive forces. Kinetic energy is lost and electric potential energy is gained. If the alpha particle approaches a gold nucleus head on, then the alpha particle will stop at the distance of closest approach where it has zero kinetic energy and then move back in the direction it came, until all the stored potential energy is changed into kinetic energy.

B. RADIOACTIVE DECAY
Exponential Decay
The number of nuclei of the original element decay exponentially with time according to the graph shown in Figure 7.4:

Number of nuclei
Original num(:>e of nuclei No

Half original

number of
nuclei N
2.

.,

DL-------, Hal------------------ --f-life Timejs 1


Figure 7.4

Nuclear Physics

207

Since the number of nuclei remaining is proportional to the activity, the graph in Figure 7.5 may be obtained:

Activity /cps.
Initial

actJvity A 0

Half of initial
activity

Ao

--2

lime/s

Figure 7.5

V Half-Life/ T.1. 2
This is the average time for half the nuclei originally present to decay.

Example
A sample of a certain radioactive nuclide has a half-life of 8.0 s. What is the time, in seconds, required for seven-eighths of the sample to decay?

Answer
If 7/8 has decayed, there must be 1/8 of the original nuclide left. After 1 half-life there will be 1/2 "- left, after 2 half-lives half of a half i.e.'r 1/4 and after 3 .. half-lives there wiil be half of a quarter, i.e. 1/8 left. 3 half-Jive? = 3, x 8 = -s

Radioactive decay is a random process and involves the spontaneous emission of


particles or rays from the nucleus of the atom.

The rate of decay of the nucl:;;- ( -d N) , or activity, is proportional to the number of


radioactive nuclei, N, remaining. -dN Hence -.- a: N Note that the minus sign is introduced because the activity ' dt decreases with time. Introducing a constant of proportionality, l,called the decay consta..IJ.L the equation becomes: ----- - ..

--=lN
dt

-dN

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Nuclear Physics

vdt

-= -lN

dN

Integrating the above equation gives:

Where

N = number of nuclei remaining after time t N0 = number of nuclei originally present t = time l = decay constant

A similar equation to the one above may be written in terms of the activities as follows:
0 -= -- e- .. dt . dt

dN

dN

where

dt

dN0

= original activity (i.e. at t

0)

. . . dN = actrvrty aft er trme t

It may also be written in terms of the masses:

r:-:::= "1 : : l.:.:.. .. .


------_j m0 m

Where

original mass at t = 0 mass after time t

Example A radioactive source decayed to 1!128th of its original activity after 50 days. half-life? Answer What is its

N'

t-Jo
Thus

1 --and N = q e-lt 128


1
-0.693
X

-t

50

- -=
e
128

Taking loge of both sides gives:

- 4.85

= - 0.693

50 T1

Nuclear Physics

2ti!J

Hence

7.14days

Decay Constant .l
Radioactiv e decay is a random process. However, there is a fixed probability of a particular atom decaying ione second, which is given by the decay constant .l. 1has the units s - 1.

1is given by either of the equations:


dN where-- = activity of source and dt
N

number of undecayed atoms

where T.1 is the half-life 2

Example 1
A radioactive isotope of strontium, of half-life 28 years, providing a source of p-1 particles, has been in use for 14 years. Originally 5.0 pg of the isotope were present. Show that the amount of this isotope has been reduced to approximately 3.5 pg.
Answer Decay constant 1 =

0.693 -:r,- =
2

0.693 28

Since the number of atoms is proportional to the mass, to work out the mass the decay formula is used: N = N0 e -lt, where N 0 is the number of atoms originally present and N is the number of atoms present after time t.

5 x e-0.693

x 14/ 28

3.5 pg

Example 2
The count rate of a solution containing 1 g of carbon extracted from an ancient document is 700 per hour. When a similar solution containing 1 g of carbon extracted from a living plant was used,.the count rate was 900 per hour. What is the age of the document if the half-life of carbon is 5570 years? Answer N dt = dN 0 e-lt dt

Using the equation

210

Nuclear Physics There is no need to change the count rates to s- I since the same units appear on both sides so the conversion factors would cancel out. Putting in the numbers gives

700 0.7778

= =

900 e- 0.69JU5570

e- 0.693t!5570

Taking loge of both sides gives Solving gives age of document,

-0.2153 = - 0.693t!5570

1730 years

The Becquerel (Bq)


A becquerel is the Sl unit of radioactivity. It is the activity of a radionuclide decaying at an average rate of one spontaneous n'uclear transition per second, so:
1 rBq

1 s -1

Background Radiation
Background radiation is natural radiation which is all around us and it may be measured using a Geiger-Muller tube with no source present. When measuring the radiation from sources it is necessary to take the average background count over a 10-minute period and then make the necessary adjustment to the source readings. Background radiation originates in a variety of ways; some is present in rocks in the ground and in building materials. Much of it comes in the form of cosmic rays from outer space.

Radiation Identification / Example

v'
(a). Radioactive decay is a random process in which the time of decay of an individual nucleus cannot be predicted. The decay of a radioactive substance follows an exponential law with a well-defined decay constant. Explain how these two statements are consistent. You are given a small radioactive source believed to emit two different types of radiation. Describe tests you might carry out to identify the radiations present. The isotope of bismuth of mass number 200 has a half-life of 5 x 103 s. It emits alpha particles with an energy of 8.2 x 10-13 ].
(i)

(b)

(c)

State the meaning of the term half-life. Calculate for this isotope:

(ii)

The decay constant

Nuclear Physics (iii) The initial activity of 1.0 x 10- b mole of the isotope (iv) The initial power output of this quantity of the isotope

211

Answer (a) Radioactive decay is a 2.r:!2... 2s;;,;;_ , which means it is impossible to determine when a particular nucleus will decay. We can, however, esctimate the probability of a nucleus decaying in a given tim'e in the same way that we can estimate the probability of throwing a six on an unbiased die. The probability of throwing a six (i.e. 1/bth) only applies if a large sample is taken. The sample of nuclei normally being considered is large so we can be fairly sure of the probability. The rate of disintegration, dN/dt, depends on the number of undecayed nuclei present, N, i.e: dN dt cr:.N

A constant, called the decay constant

A., is the constant of proportionality in this

equation. dN dt

The equation now becomes (b) The tests might be:

-..l.N

The background count is taken with no source present. This is subtracted from subsequent readings to obtain the corrected counts. The source is placed close to a G-M tube and the corrected count obtained (Figure 7.6):

Geiger- Muller
tube

Ratemeret-

or scalar

<5cm

Source holder

Absqroer holder

Figure 7.6 Thin card is placed between the source and G-M tube. A large reduction in the corrected count rate indicates the presence of a-particles. The card is now replaced with aluminium about 3 mm thick. A large reduction in the count rate indicates that j3 were emitted.

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Nuclear Physics
If the count rate is still higher than the original background radiation, then the source must be emitting y rays. Half-life is the average time for the activity to fall to half of its original value.

(c)

(i)

(ii). Decay constant, l = --=

0.693

T1 2

0.693 5 X 103

= 1.386 X 10-4 s-1 (iii) Activity>,

dt =

dN

-lN where N is the number of radioactive atoms

originally present. In 1 mole there are 6.02 x 1023 atoms, hence in 1 x 10-6 moles there are 6.02 x 1023 x 1 x 10-6 = 6.02 x 1017 atoms. Hence

dt

dN

= -:-1.386 x 10-4 x 6.02 x 1017

8.34 x 1013s-1
(iv) Power Rate of disintegration x Energy of particle released

8.34

1013

8.2

10/

= 68.4 watts

Deflection of Alpha, Beta and Gamma Radiations by Magnetic Fields


Fleming's left-hand rule (covered later) may be used to predict the directions (Figure 7.7). Remember to use the direction of the conventional current.

c ry goes through
undeviated

Direction of

Convem:ionel

current

field

Force

For ce

1/

Di tion of f3

Fetd

Direction of

conventional current
Figure 7.7
Gamma rays, having no charge, pass through undeviated.

'. '

Nuclear Physics

213

Deflection by Electric Fields


Again, gamma rays remain undeviated:

f3- particle

1Figure 7.8

'

' ' o(-

partide

Summary of the Properties of Alpha, Be a and Gamma Radiation

a
Nature He nucleus Electron

1' Electromagnetic radiation No charge No mass Low

Charge Mass Ability to ionise gases Absorption (Stopped by) Deflection in electric fields Deflection in magnetic fields

+2
4amu Very high

-1

1/2000 amu Medium

Thick paper 3 em of air Towards -ve

3 mm of AI; 5 m of air Towards

Thick lead

+ ve

No deflection

Predicted by Fleming's left. hand rule for + ve particles

Predicted by Fleming's lefthand rule for - ve particles

No deflection

-. Cloud Chamber
There are two types of cloud chamber but the one described here is the DIFFUSION TYPE. See Figure 7.9:

214

Nuclear Physics

-- -----Felt ring

a cohoi
source

soaked in

Black base

5ponse to keep

--dry ice in contact with base

Figure 7.9

Its operation is as follows: Owing to the low temperature near the base, the air in this region becomes supersaturated with alcohol vapour. The supersaturated vapour is able to condense if it can find some particles to condense on. When the radiation passes through the air, ions are produced which provide sites on which the vapour can condense. The trail of ions therefore shows up as a series of small droplets of liquid.
(a)

a-Particle Tracks

Since a-particles are large they are good ionisers and less likely to be deviated. They produce thick, straight and well defined tracks (Figure 7.10):

o<-source

Figure 7.10
(b) ft-Partide Tracks

13-particles are electrons and owing to their small size they are poor ionisers and are easily deviated. The tracks produced are thin wavy lines (Figure 7.11):

Nuclear Physics

215

,&source

-+---o \ l \-I

Figure 7.11
(c) y-Ray Tracks

Unlike a or 13 particles, y rays must hit the atom directly in order to ionise it. This is very unlikely so the tracks are not clearly defined (Figure 7.12):

-Figure 7.12

Radioisotope Uses
(a) Industrial and Domestic Applications Example
State and explain which of the radioactive sources (alpha, beta or gamma) would be the most suitable for use in:
(i)

A domestic smoke detector Examining the thickness of a thick steel casing Monitoring the thickness of aluminium kitchen foil during production

(ii) (iii)

Answer
(i)

The source would need to produce radiation that would easily be absorbed by the smoke. Hence the need for an alpha source. Alpha and beta would be easily stopped by the thick steel casing; however, gamma radiation would travel through. Any flaws in the steel will be shown up as changes in intensity in the gamma rays detected behind the steel.

(ii)

216

Nuclear Physics

(iii)

Beta particles are absorbed by 3 mm of AI. For AI thinner than this the number of betas passing through decreases with thickness. This may be used to monitor and control the thickness.

(b) Medical Uses If a substance is known to play a part in a process in the body, it may be possible to introduce into the system a radioactive version of that substance which will behave exactly like its non-radioactive counterpart. This method enables a dose of radiation to be applied for therapeutic purposes. In addition, with the aid of the emitted radiation, parts of the body may be studied for diagnostic purposes. Radioactive tracers can be used to reveal information about parts of the body such as the blood, urine or an organ. Radioactive Experiment Safety The ionising effect of radiation damages cells in the body and can lead to various forms of cancer. To prev nt this, the following steps should be taken when performing radioactive experiments:
,.
{

Radioactive sources should never be handled with the fingers. Always handle using tongs. Sources should not be pointed towards yourself or anyone else. Cuts on hands must be covered and hands washed after use. Alternatively, use disposable rubber gloves. Sources should be kept in a lead-lined box and always replaced in the box after use. The whole box should be locked safely away. Shields of thick lead-glass should be used when using high-activity sources.

REVISION AND EXAMINATION PRACTICE QUESTIONS


1.

Consider the alpha particle, electron and proton. The following correctly places the particles in order of increasing magnitude of the charge to mass ratio (Q/m): A B C D E Electron, proton, alpha particle Electron, alpha particle, proton Alpha particle, proton, electron Proton, alpha particle, electron Proton, electron, alpha particle
238

2.

A nucleus of

92

U decays by emission of one alpha particle,

followed by the emission of two beta particles. The resulting nucleus following these decays has atomic number Z and mass number A. Which one of the following shows the correct values of A and Z?

Nuclear Physics
A
A

217

z
88 90 92 88 89

c
D E 3.

238 234 234 234 230

In Geiger and Marsden's experiments to investigate the nature of the atom, a very thin gold foil was bombarded with alpha particles. It was found that: A B C D E All alpha particles were deflected from their original path No alpha particles were deflected from their original path No alpha particles were deflected through angles greater than a right angle A few alpha particles were deflected through angles greater than a right angle Most alpha particles were deflected through angles greater than a right angle

4.

When an alpha particle app oaches a heavy nucleus X, it may behave in various ways depending on its initial direction of travel. In Figure 7.13 are shown various paths, P, Q, R, ,s and T. Which one of the following statements are correct?

/.'\
p

_/.
.X

X.

:X

Figure 7.13 A B C D E 5. All of these are possible Neither P nor Q is possible Both R and T are possible Both Q and S are possible None of these is possible

Which of the following statements concerning gamma rays is/are correct? 1 2 3 They can ionise air They can be deflected by electric fields They can be deflected by magnetic fields

Answer: A B C D E if if if if if 1, 2 and 3 are all correct 1 and 2 only are correct 2 and 3 only are correct 1 only is correct 3 only is correct

f
218

Nuclear Physics

6.

Isotopes of an element have the same: 1 Chemical properties Proton number Nucleon number

2
3

Answer: A B C if 1, 2 and if 1 and 2 if 2 and 3 if 1 only is if 3 only is

D E 7.

3 are all correct only are correct only are correct correct correct

An engineer wishes to use a radioisotope to trace a crack in a pipe buried about a metre below the ground. Which one of the following isotopes should be chosen?

Emission
A B

Half-life
A few hours A few hours . Several years A few hours Several years

c
D

E
8.

Alpha Beta Beta Gamma Gamma

The half-life of radium-226 is 1600 years. Which of the following statements is/are correct?

1
2

The decay constant is 4.3 x 10-4 year -1 The fraction which remains after 6400 years is 1/16 The fraction which remains after 800 years is 3/4

Answer: A B if if if if

C
D

1 and 2 only are correct 2 and 3 only are correct 1 only is correct 3 only is correct

9.

The half-life of a certain radioactive isotope is 2 days. The initial count rate of a certain quantity of this isotope was measured as 12 000 counts per minute. The count rate, in counts per minute, after 8 days would be:

A B

D 10. (a)

3000 '1500 750 375


Define the decay constant of a radioactive material and show how it is related to the half-life of the material. A gamma ray emitter, which may be considered to be a point source radiating uniformly in all directions, is situated 50 em away from a gamma ray detector. which has an effective area of 6.0 cm2. The recorded count rate at a given time is 320 s -1.

(b)

Nuclear Physics

219

(i)

Estimate a value for the activity of the source at this time. Civen that the hall-life is 30 seconds, calculate a value for the number uf radioactive atoms present in the sample 120 seconds before the measurement was made.

(ii)

.11. The radioactive decay rate dN/dt for a specimen which contains N atoms of a radioactive isotope is elated to the decay constant ,las follows: dN dt
= -,tN

The decay rate for a sample of radon gas at a particular instant is found to oe 7.4 x 103 Bq (i.e. 7.4 x 103 disintegrations -per second). The decay constant tor radon is 12.6 x 10-3 s-1. (a) Explain what you understand by the description of radioactive decay as a random process.
'

(b)

Calculate a value for the number of radon atoms present at the particular instant. Why is it possible for the value of N calculated in (b) to differ from the actual value at that instant even without error in the data? Define the term half-life and calculate a value for the half-life of radon. The energy released in the decay of one radon nucleus is 6.3 MeV where 1 MeV equals 1.6 x 10-13 j. Find the rate of energy release for the radon sample above.

(c)

(d) (e)

12. At the start of an experiment a mixture of radioactive material contains 20.0 ]lg of a radioisotope A, which has a half-life of 70 s, and 40.0 pg of radioisotope B, which
has a half-life of 35 s. (a) After what period of time will the mixture contain equal masses of each isotope? What is the mass of each isotope at this time? Calculate the rate at which the atoms of isotope A are decaying when the masses are the same.

(b)

(Molar mass of isotope A = 234 g Avogadro constant = 6.0 x 1023 mol-1)

13. (a)

(i)

Write down an equation expressing the law of radioactive disintegrations, defining all symbols used. Explain how the expression is a consequence of the random nature of radioactive decay.

(ii)

(b)

The graph in Figure 7.14 shows the count rate due to the disintegration of the carbon-14 in 1 g of carbon taken from dead plant material plotted against the age of the material:

15

.... .s
E

ii
r.

.
0

lfJI

::1

c:

.QJ. ...

f!
::l 0

c" "":'J'
(.)

2000

eooo
Figure 7.14

10000

12.000

Age(years)

(i) (ii)

Obtain a value for the decay constant of the isotope.

0.20 g of carbon-14 obtained from an ancient boat gave a count rate of


1.9 counts per minute. Estimate the age of the boat.

14. The element technetium is widely used in medicine for examining internal organs of the body. The radioisotope used is known as Tc-99m. It has a half-life of 6.02 hours and decays by the emission of a gamma ray to produce a more stable version of the same isotope. In one case the patient swallows a quantity of almost pure Tc-99m with an activity of3.7 x 10Bs-1. (a) Explain how the emission of a gamma ray can lead to the production of a more stable isotope. Calculate the decay constant for Tc-99m and determine the number of Tc-99m atoms present in the material given to the patient. Discuss the advantage of using a gamma emitter rather than an alpha emitter or a beta emitter for this purpose.

(b)

(c)

15.

In one radioactive series the following decay processes occur:

---------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------ ,
Nuclear Physics
220 221

Nuclear Physics
238 92

234

234

Th
91

Pa

(a) (b) 16.

Name the decay processes occurring in (i) uranium, (ii) thorium. Discuss whether mass is conserved in these processes.

Figure 7.15 shows sketches of cloud chamber tracks produced when alpha particles of the same energy travelling from left to right are scattered by atoms of gas in two cloud chambers X and Y. The scattering is the result of elastic collisions. One chamber is known to contain only helium and the other only nitrogen.

_,/

Cloud chamber X

Cloud chamber Y

Figure 7.15
(a) (i) (ii) Which chamber contains the nitrogen? Explain your reasoning. Draw a diagram to show the path of the alpha particle as it approaches and is deflected by the nucleus of the atom of nitrogen.

(iii) Draw on the same diagram the path followed by an alpha particle which is deflected through a smaller angle. (b) (i) State the outcome of a head-on collision of an alpha particle with a helium nucleus which is initially at rest. What would be the outcome of a head-on collision if a proton were involved instead of the alpha particle? (No calculation is required.)

(ii)

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FOR PRACTICE


1. The 0-17 nucleus contains 8 protons and 9 neutrons. Mass defect Mass of constituent particles - Mass of atom (8
X

1.00814

+ 9

1.00898) - 17.00454

0.1414 u Binding energy

0.1414 x 931

131.6 MeV

J
)

2.

Mass defect

= Mass of constituent particles - Mass of atom

(2 X 1.00814 0.03724 u

2 X 1.00898) - 4.00150

0.03274 X 931 X 106 eV

3.0481 X 107 eV

Binding energy per nucleon

=
=

Binding energy for nucleus or atom Number of nucleons 3.0481 X 107 4 7.62 X 106 eV

=
3.

7.62 MeV

Thorium = Radium + Alpha particle 232.038 = 228.031 + 4.003 Hence Energy

+ +

Energy Energy

= 0.004 u

0.004 X 1.66 X 10-27 X (3 X 108)2 J

= 5.98 X 10-13 J
4. Mass defect

=
=

(3.345 X 10-27 3.1


X

.008 X 10-27) - (6.647 X 10-27

1.675 X 10-27)

10-29 kg

Now E

= = =

mc2 where c is the speed of light 3.1 X 10-29 X (3 X 108)2

2.79

X 10-12 J

5..

S:nce E E

== mc2

Mass defect in kg x c2

2.88 x 10-12

Mass defect in kg x (3 x 108)2

Giving mass defect in kg

=
=

2.88

10-12

(3 X 108)2 3.2 X 1Q-29 kg

Mass defect = (3.345

x 10-27

5.008 x 10-27) - (1.675 x 10-27

M)

where M is the mass of the helium nucleus

'
\

Equaling and s olving gives ma ss o f htlium nucleus: M = 6.646 X 10-27 kg

Nuclear Physics
222

223

Nuclear Physics Equaling and solving gives mass uf helium nucleus:

M = 6.646 X 10-27 kg

ANSWERS TO REVISION AND EXAMINATION PRACTICE QUESTIONS


1. Answer= A Answer = Answer= Answer=

2.
3. 4.

c
[)

5.
6.
7.

Answer= D Answer= B Answer= B Decay constant,1=

8.

0 693
1600

= 4.3

x 10-4 year-!

6400 years is 4 half-lives. Fraction remaining will be

. (1)
2

16

Answer= A 9. 8 days is 4 half-lives, so the activity of the source will halve four times, i.e. 12 000 to 6 000 to 3 000 to 1500 Answer= B 10. (a) (b) See text.
(i)

Refer to Figure 7.16:

Figure 7.16
The source sends out radiation over a sphere of area 4nr2

224

Nuclear Physics Area of sphere Area of detector


4 x n x (0.5)2 = n ml

=u

cml

=
X

6 x 1 0-4 rnL

Hence, area of sphere is -----

(G

10-4)

52Jh tinws IJrger than the

area of the detector. Count rate over the whole sphere would be 52Jh times larger.

So count rate

5236 x 320

1.68 x 1()6 s- I

Hence, activity of source = 1.68 (ii) Decay constant, l =

x 106

s -1

0.693 -,=;-2

---:3()

0.693

= 0.02 1"1 s-

Since activity

ex:

n , ber of nuclei, N we can write:

"

A = A 0 e-.lt wh re A is the activity when measurement was made and A 0 is the actl\(ity 120 s before the measurement was made.

1.68

106
Ao

A 0 e...:.' -0231
X

120

Giving dN dt

= 2.69 =
-lN

T07

2.69

107

-0.0231

Giving number of nuclei, N

1.16

x 109

11. (a)
(b)

See text. dN dt

(
-lN

7.4

103

-12.6

10-3 N

Giving number of nuclei, N


(c)

5.87 x 105

See text.

(d)

Decay constant,

0.693 --:r,-z

12.6

10-3 =

0.693 T1. 2 0 693 - -_10 3

Giving h a If - I if e, T= - - -_

55 s

12 6

-x-

Nuclear Physics

225

dN
(e)

dt

7.4 x 1 ()3 s -1 and during each disintegration

6.3 x 1.6 x 10- 13 J of energy are released.


Hence rate of energy release 7.4
X

103

6.3

1.6

10-U

7.46 X 10-9 W

12. (a)

lA

--= O.OO<J<J s-1

70

lB

0.693 35

= 0.0"198s-

Using m

m0 e-lt for sample A gives

rnA = 20 x 10-b e-0.0099t and, for sample B,

ms = 40 x 10-6 e-O.Ol98t After a certain time the masses will be equal and rnA = mg:

20 x 10-6 e-0.0099t

40 x 10-6 e-O.!rl98t

Solving by taking loge of both sides gives:

t =70s
Mass of each isotope after 70 s

20 x 10-6 e- o.tJ099
X

7o

= 10
(b) -=

10-b g = 10pg

dN
dt

-lt
6
X

= -0.0099 X 10 X 10-6 X
=

1023

234

-2.5 x 1014 s-1

Rate of decay of A when masses are the same = 2.5

1014 5 -1

13. (a)

(i)

See text. See text.

(ii)

226

Nuclear Physics (b)


(i)

From the graph, half-life Decay constant, .l 1.386 (365


X X X

5000 years.

0.693 T-'"
2

=
=

1.386

10-4 year- 1

=
(ii)

10-4 60
X

24

60)

4.4

10-12 s

0.2 g of carbon gives final count rate of 1.9 cpm and 1.0 g gives 9.5 cpm. Hence, from the graph the approximate age = 4000 years.

14.

(a)

Emission of a y-ray allows the nucleus to lose some of its excess energy and become more stable. Decay constant, .l

(b)

0.693 T2 2

0.693 = --------------(6.02 X 60 X 60)

= 3.2
dN
Now, dt

x 10-s s-1

-.lN

3.7 X 108 = -3.2 X 10-5 X N Giving number of atoms present, N (c)

1.16 x 1013

Gamma rays are more penetrating and would therefore be easier to detect by a detector placed outside the body. Alphas, being particles, are less penetrating and being good ionisers, would cause ionisation which could cause problems. (i) (ii) Alpha-decay Beta-decay

15.

(a)

(b)

The mass will not be conserved because some of the mass will be used to supply the emitted particles with kinetic energy.

16. The gases are helium-4 and nitrogen-14. (a) (i)

Cloud chamber X contains the nitrogen, because nitrogen is much more massive than the a-particle and it is only when a nucleus collides with a more massive nucleus that the angle of deflection can be more than 90. See Figure 7.17:

(ii)