Nuclear Reactions

Nuclear Fission and Fusion

Fission
When atoms are bombarded with neutrons, their nuclei splits into 2 parts which are roughly equal in size. Nuclear fission in the process whereby a nucleus, with a high mass number, splits into 2 nuclei which have roughly equal smaller mass numbers. During nuclear fission, neutrons are released.

Nuclear Fission
There are 2 types of fission that exist: 1. Spontaneous Fission 2. Induced Fission

Spontaneous Fission
Some radioisotopes contain nuclei which are highly unstable and decay spontaneously by splitting into 2 smaller nuclei. Such spontaneous decays are accompanied by the release of neutrons.

Induced Fission
Nuclear fission can be induced by bombarding atoms with neutrons. The nuclei of the atoms then split into 2 equal parts. Induced fission decays are also accompanied by the release of neutrons.

The Fission Process
A neutron travels at high speed towards a uranium-235 nucleus.

1 0

n

235 92 U

The Fission Process
The neutron strikes the nucleus which then captures the neutron.

1 0

n

235 92 U

The Fission Process
The nucleus changes from being uranium-235 to uranium-236 as it has captured a neutron.

236 92 U

The Fission Process
The uranium-236 nucleus formed is very unstable. It transforms into an elongated shape for a short time.

The Fission Process
It then splits into 2 fission fragments and releases neutrons.
1 0 141 56 Ba 1 0 92 36 Kr 1 0

n

n

n

Nuclear Fission Examples
235

U + 0n 92 U + 0n 92
1

1

141

Ba + 36Kr + 30 n 56 Cs + 37Rb+ 20 n 55
96 1

92

1

235

138

Energy Released
The energy released can be calculated using the equation:

E = mc2
Where: E = energy released (J) m = mass difference (kg)

E m c2

c = speed of light in a vacuum (3 x 108 ms-1 )

Energy from Fission
Calculate the energy released from the following fission reaction:

235 92

U + 0n

1

138 55

Cs + 37Rb+ 20n
E = mc2 E = 2.65 x 10-28 x (3 x 108)2 E = 2.385 x 10-11 J

96

1

m = 2.65 x 10-28 kg c = 3 x 108 ms-1 E=E

Energy from Fission
The energy released from this fission reaction does not seem a lot. This is because it is produced from the fission of a single nucleus. Large amounts of energy are released when a large number of nuclei undergo fission reactions.

Energy from Fission
Each uranium-235 atom has a mass of 3.9014 x 10-25 kg. The total number of atoms in 1 kg of uranium-235 can be found as follows: No. of atoms in 1 kg of uranium-235 = 1/3.9014 x 10-25 No. of atoms in 1 kg of uranium-235 = 2.56 x 1024 atoms

Energy from Fission
If one uranium-235 atom undergoes a fission reaction and releases 2.385 x 10-11 J of energy, then the amount of energy released by 1 kg of uranium-235 can be calculated as follows: total energy = energy per fission x number of atoms total energy = 2.385 x 10-11 x 2.56 x 1024 total energy = 6.1056 x 1013 J

Nuclear Fusion
In nuclear fusion, two nuclei with low mass numbers combine to produce a single nucleus with a higher mass number.

2

H + 1H 1

3

4

He + 0 n + Energy 2

1

The Fusion Process

2 1H

3 1H

The Fusion Process

1 0 4 2 He

n

EN ER GY

Energy from Fusion
2

H + 1H 1
m = 3.1 x 10-29 kg c = 3 x 108 ms-1 E=E

3

4

He + 0 n + Energy 2
E = mc2 E = 3.1 x 10-29 x (3 x 108)2 E = 2.79 x 10-12 J

1

The energy released per fusion is 2.79 x 10-12 J.