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A Saxena

Nucleus (of an atom), is a bound quantum

system and can exist in different quantum

states, depending upon energies, angular
momenta etc.
Static properties of nuclei (in ground
states) electric charge, mass, binding
energy, size, shape, angular momentum,
quadrupole moment, statistics, parity
and iso-spin.
Dynamic characteristics of nuclei play role
in processes of nuclear reactions, nuclear
excitation and nuclear decay.

N uclear m ass and B inding energy


Atomic nuclei contains two different types

elementary particles, protons and neutrons.


Proton nucleus of hydrogen atom, having

positive charge of one electronic unit (+e)

mass ~1836 times electronic mass (me)
Neutron electrically neutral,
slightly heavier than proton
In the nucleus protons and neutrons held together
by very strong short range attractive force,
constitutes specifically nuclear interaction.

Numbers of neutrons (N) and protons (Z)

inside nucleus is its

mass number A = N + Z.
Z = atomic number of element in periodic
Nucleus of an atom X of atomic number Z
and mass number A is written as
or AX.
or 4He nucleus of helium
2 He
atomic number 2 and mass number 4.
This is -particle.

Isotopes nuclei (of an atom) with same at. no. Z,

but different mass no.A

i.e. Nuclei contain same no. of protons,
but different no. of neutrons.
e.g. Lithium (Z = 3) has two stable isotopes
6Li and 7Li
no. of protons in both nuclei are same Z =3.
6Li N = 3
7 Li N =4.
Relative abundance Elements having more than one
stable isotope in natural state are mixtures of these
isotopes in fixed proportions (which remain more or
less the same, Irrespective of their source).
Natural lithium is a mixture of two stable isotopes
6Li & 7Li with relative abundances 7.4% and 92.6%.

Hydrogen has two stable isotopes

H (99.99%), 2H (0.01%).
2H is called deuterium and its nucleus
Another unstable Isotope with A = 3
called tritium 3H.
Isobars Nuclei with same mass no.
A, but different no. of proton Z
Isotones nuclei with same no. of
neutrons but different mass no.

Nuclear mass :
Atomic mass M by subtracting the
masses of
Z orbital electrons (me is mass of
Mnucl = M - Z me
This expression is not exact,
since it does not take into account
binding energies of the electrons
in atom.

Binding energy of nucleus:

Minimum amount of energy supplied to
nucleus to break up a nucleus
Z protons and N neutrons completely,
i.e. all are separated from each other.
In formation of a nucleus,
same amount of energy is required,
which comes from disappearance of a fraction
of its total mass(of Z protons and N neutrons),
If quantity of mass disappear M, then
binding energy
EB = Mc2
(e.g. 1g mass completely converted into energy = 9 x 10 13
So mass of the nucleus < sum of the masses of

constituents neutrons and protons.

In hydrogen atom
mass of hydrogen atom MH and neutron Mn
M = Z MH + N Mn - M(A, Z)

where M(A,
no. Z).


mass of the atom (of mass no. A and at.

Then binding energy of the nucleus

EB= [Z MH + N Mn - M(A,Z)]c2
masses of the Z electrons (Zme) cancel out.
Hence M for the nucleus
M = Z Mp + N Mn Mnuc (A,Z)
Due to mass-energy equivalence masses can be
written in energy units, then c 2 can be omitted.

Atomic mass unit : 1 mole of

C has mass 12g.

1 mole contains N0 atoms, Where N0 = 6.02205 x
1023 is Avogadro number,
12 X 10-3 or 12x 1.660566 x 10-27 kg
Then mass of each 12C atom is
1 u = 1 x 12 X 10-3 = 1.660566 x 10-27 kg
Energy-equivalent of this mass is
1 u = 1.660566x 10-27 x c2
= 1.660566 X 10-27 x 8.98755 X 1016
= 14.924427x 10-11 Joule
= 14.924427 x 10-11 = 931.502 MeV
1.60219 x 10-13


Im portance ofaccurate determ ination ofatom ic m asses

Atomic masses are determined with accuracy

better than 1 ppm by mass spectroscopes.

Required for determination of nuclear binding energies
and calculation of nuclear disintegration energies.
e.g. -disintegration of a heavy element like 226Ra (Z=
88) Nuclei spontaneously disintegrate by emission of
-particles (of few MeV kinetic energy) from
conversion of a part of nucleus mass into energy
(by mass-energy equivalence relation ).
226Ra 222Rn + 4He
Product 222Rn (Z=86)
The masses of different atoms take part in process
M (226Ra ) = 226.025436 u
M(222Rn) = 222.017608 u
M (4He) = 4.002603 u

then -disintegration energy

Q = [ M ( 226Ra) M( 222Rn) - M (4He)]

= (226.025436 - 222.017608 - 4.002603) x 931.502
= 0.005225 x 931.502 = 4.87 MeV
disintegration energy is less than one
part in 40,000 of the mass of
disintegrating nucleus.
Study of nuclear disintegration energies
provides direct experimental evidence
for mass-energy equivalence principle.

System atic of nuclear binding energy

Accurate determination of atomic masses,

are very close to whole numbers, which are

actually the mass no. of the atoms. .
Atoms with A < 20 and A > 180, atomic
masses are slightly greater than the
corresponding mass numbers.
While for 20 < A < 180, slightly less.
Mass defect M departure of measured
atomic mass M(A, Z) from the mass no. (A) is
quite significant.
M = M(A, Z) - A

e.g. 4He at. mass 4.002603 u is slightly greater than

the mass no. 4,
M = + 0.002603 u.
for 75As
M = - 0.078403 u.
For very light and very heavy atoms, mass defect is
positive, while in the intermediate region it is negative.

Packing fraction (f) mass defect of an atom

divided by its mass no.
f = M = M(A,Z) - A
= M(A,Z) - 1
Having same sign of mass defect
Measured atomic mass
M (A, Z) = A (1 + f )

Packing fraction curve


Packing fraction

-10 0




Packing fraction f varies in systematic manner with mass

number A. It is explained from nuclear binding energy


If the binding energy EB of a nucleus zAX,

then binding fraction
fB = EB = Z MH + N Mn - M(A,Z)
measured atomic mass M(A, Z)
In mass unit (c2 not required )
It shows relative strengths of their
binding energy.

e.g. for deuteron ( Z = 1, N = 1)

EB (2H) = MH + Mn - Md .
= (1.007825 + 1.008665 - 2.014102) X 931.5
=2.224 MeV

fB (2H) = EB =2.224 =1.112 MeV/u

For -particle (4He) , since Z = 2, N= 2,
EB (4He) = Z MH + N Mn - MHe
EB (4He) = (2 X 1.007825 + 2 X 1.008665 - 4.002603 ) X 931.5
= 28.3 MeV
fB (4He) = 28.3 = 7.075 MeV/u
Since fB (2H) << fB (4He), thus 2H is very weekly
bound than 4He.

Fig.Binding fraction curve



( MeV/u )




28 // 60



Variation of binding fraction fB

with A
(a) fB for

very light nuclei is very small

and rises rapidly with A,
attaining a value of ~ 8 MeV/u for A ~

then rises slowly and attains a

maximum of
~ 8.7 MeV/u at A ~ 56
(b) For 20 < A < 180 fB is very slight,
almost constant,
mean value ~ 8.5 MeV/u.

(d) For
fluctuations in fB,



peaks are observed for the even-even nuclei

4He, 8Be, 12C,16O etc.,
for which A= 4n where n is an integer.
But less prominent peaks are observed at
values of Z or N = 20, 28,50, 82 and 126.
These are known as magic numbers.
corresponding nuclei relative to nuclei in their
immediate neighborhood.

complimentary to packing fraction curve .

MH =1 + fH and Mn = 1 + fn
(where fH = 0.007825 u and fn = 0.008665 u are constant)
then we have
EB = Z ( 1 + fH ) + N (1 + fn ) - M (A, Z)
= ( Z + N ) + Z fH + N fn - A (1 + f )
= A + Z fH + N fn - A - M
where M = A f ,
Hence we get
EB = Z fH + N fn - M
f B = EB =
Z fH + N fn
_ M
= Z f H + N fn
_ f

First term is almost constant,

specially for lower A, when Z = N = AI2

Thus fB increases or decreases as f
decreases or increases.
Graphs variation f and fB are
complementary with A.
Binding fraction curve explains
( qualitatively) -disintegration of
heavy nuclei and also energy release in
nuclear fission and fusion processes.

N uclear size
Rutherford's theory of -particle scattering gives
smallness of nuclear size.

Scattering experiments with relatively higher

-particles gives deviation from Rutherford scattering
formula at large angles i.e. for small impact parameters b.
When b becomes comparable to nuclear radius R,
-particle feels effect of nuclear force.
Since Rutherford's scattering formula is deduced on the
assumption that force acting on -particle is purely
electrostatic, deviation is expected, this is no longer true.
Putting b = R, we get limiting angle of scattering c
above which ratio of measured scattering cross section
() to that Rutherford's formula (R) will be different from

Above c, anomalous scattering takes place.

Rutherford estimated values of nuclear

radius R for a few light elements. e.g.

order of 10-15 m (not very accurate).
In case of nuclear radius, we assume that
nucleus has spherical shape, because of
short range nuclear force.
However, small deviations from the spherical
shape of certain nuclei have been observed,
due to electric quadrupole moment of nuclei.
(zero for spherical nuclei).


is assumed that nuclear charge is uniformly

distributed. Experiments show that nuclear charge
density c and distribution of nuclear matter (i.e.,
protons and neutrons) is nearly uniform.
then nuclear matter density m is also approximately
constant. Since nuclear mass is almost linearly proportional
to the mass number A, this means
m ~ A/V = constant
i.e. nuclear volume V A. (nucleus with radius R). then
V = 4 R3 A
R AI/3
R = r0 A 1/3
where ro is a constant, known as
nuclear radius

Nuclear radius radius of

nuclear mass distribution or
nuclear charge distribution.
Since nuclear charge parameter (i.e. at. no.) Z is almost
linearly proportional to mass no. A and
nuclear charge density c is approximately same
throughout nuclear volume,
distribution of nuclear charge +Ze follow pattern of
nuclear mass distribution.
Hence charge radius and mass radius are very
nearly same (due to strong attractive forces within
nucleus ).
very nearly same for both types of nucleons,
protons and neutrons and hence their distributions
within nuclear volume follow the same pattern.

Potentialenergy of nucleous for a charged particle

( proton or -particle )

Electrostatic repulsive force of nuclear charge

+Ze acted from outside the nucleus (r > R),
while inside the nucleus (r < R) a negative
potential (due to short range nuclear force).
Where r is the distance from the nuclear
We assume electrostatic force is not effective
inside nucleus and nuclear force becomes
zero at nuclear surface (r = R).

Potentialenergy diagram ofnucleus

- Vc
- - - - - - -

- -


- - - R

Vc =E
- - - - r

Nucleus is surrounded by a Coulomb potential barrier


= ZZ e2
4 0 r

form incident particle of charge Ze (for r > R)

. At the nuclear surface barrier height is given by
VR = ZZ e2
4 0 R
Radius R is known as potential radius,
slightly greater than charge or mass radius.
e.g. For uranium nucleus with Z = 92 and
R = 8 X 10-15 m , VR = 16.5 MeV for a proton,
while VR = 33.1 MeV for an -particle taking
ro = 1.3 X 10-15 m.

Classically, a charged particle of energy E < VR

cannot escape (or enter) from the nucleus.

But quantum mechanically (due to uncertainty
principle) position of the particle within the
nucleus is not so well-defined,
i.e. a finite probability of particle to penetrate
barrier, If E < VR .
If particle with an initial energy +E outside the
nucleus reaches the point r = b where Vc = E.
then it will be repelled by electrostatic force of
positive charge of residual nucleus and goaway.
Nuclear radius is expressed in units of 10- 15 m
i.e. femtometer (fm) or Fermi.

Mean square radius of nuclear charge

distribution is defined as
<r2 > = o r2. 4r2 (r) dr
4r2 (r) dr
where (r) is nuclear charge density.
For a uniformly charged sphere ( =
of radius R, this gives (since = 0 for r> R)
<r2 > = oR r4 dr
R 2
o r dr

R2 = 5 <r2 >

M easurem ent of the charge radius

by Electron scattering experim ent
In scattering of high energy electrons
by nuclei, no nuclear force acting on
the electrons,
only Coulomb attractive force acts
due to nuclear charge. If de Broglie
wavelength of the electrons is small
compared to the nuclear radius, then
this experiment gives many details
of nuclear charge distribution.

According to de Broglie's theory of wavecorpuscular dualism,

the wavelength of a relativistic electron of rest
mass mo and
total energy E > moc2 is given by
= ch
e [ V(V+2moc2/e)]1/2
where eV = Ek is kinetic energy of the electron, e is
Substituting values of c, h, e and mo we get
= 12.4Xl03
[V (V + 1.02 x 106) ]
For electrons Ek = 200 MeV,
V = 200 x 106 volts


It is smaller than radius of most nuclei.

It shows that electrons of a few

hundred MeV energy can give many
details of nuclear charge distribution.

H igh energy electron scattering experim ent


g magnet



-/-------------------------- T --- chamber
---- ///
--- s
--- pe
o-m c
et tr
r e

High energy electron beam from

linear accelerator A is deflected by
means of magnet and collimated by
slit, Deflecting magnet directs beam
to target inside scattering chamber.
The elastically scattered beam of
electrons is then analysed by the
large magnetic spectrometer .

Quantum mechanical expression for

differential scattering cross-section of a relativistic

electron from a spin-less target at centre of mass
angle is
() =M () {F(q)}2
M () is Mott cross section of elastic scattering from
a point charge +Ze
M () = ( Ze2 )2 cos2/2
( 8oE) sin4/2
where E energy of the electrons in the C.M. system.
F(q) form factor which gives the ratio by which
scattering cross-section is reduced, when the charge +Ze is
spread out over finite volume.
Due to destructive interference between electron waves
scattered from different parts of the target nucleus, F(q)
< 1.

Using Born approximation method of quantum mechanics

F(q) = 1 (r) exp (i.q.r) d
= 4 (r) exp (sin qr)r dr
where q = k - k' = 1/ (p - p' )
measure of momentum transfer p - p' in elastic
| q | depends on the angle of scattering
|q | = 2p sin

(r) is charge density within nucleus and
exponential is a phase factor over the volume.

Form factor F (q) is equal to Fourier transform of

charge density. It is determined directly by

scattering experiment, from the ratio ()/ M().
And using the inverse Fourier transformation,
(r) is determined ( If large number of
measurements for angles from expt.)
If not so possible, we have to assume a form of
density distribution, and best fit with expt. data
obtained by suitably adjusting parameters R1/2 and
a, in the expression. A suitable particular form is
(r) =
o ____________________
I + exp {(r - R1/2)/ a)
This is called Fermi distribution, shown in Fig.

Ferm idistribution ofnuclear charge density

Nuclear Charge

<---- 4.4 a
90% ----

10 % ---Nuclear

For r = R1/2 , =o /2
where o is charge density at centre (r = 0).
Thus R1/2 is half radius.
Parameter a determines the skin-thickness of nucleus,
in which (r) falls from 0.9 to 0.1 o of nuclear
surface. Hence t = 4.4 a.
If we approximate above Eqn. for uniform charge distribution,
then equivalent
R = roA1/3
where ro = 1.32 x 10-15 m for A < 50
and ro = 1.21 x 10-15 m for A > 50
This confirms that nuclear matter is almost uniformly
distributed within nuclear volume,
if we assume mass and charge radii are equal for all nuclei
a= 0.5 x 10-15 m = 0.5 fm.

Experimental data shows that for spherical

nuclei mass with A > 15, charge distribution
has a core of uniform density, surrounded
by a skin thickness 2.3 fm.
The radius of half the maximum density
R1I2 = 1.07 A1/3 fm.
For 4 < A < 15 , no uniform core and
density decreases steadily with increasing r.
Also the charge density in the core region
decreases as Z increases.

N uclear Spin
Protons & neutrons have intrinsic spin

angular momentum 1/2 ( unit of ) each,

like electrons.

In addition, nucleons also possess

quantized orbital angular momenta about
C.M. of nucleus, like electrons in atom.

Resultant angular momentum (I) of

nucleus is vector sum of orbital angular
momentum (S) of nucleus :

Quantum mechanically, total orbital and spin

angular momenta of the nucleus are given by

pI2 = I (I + 1) 2
pL2 = L (L + 1 ) 2
pS2 = S (S+ 1) ) 2
During measurement, it is largest component
of angular momentum along the direction of
applied electric or magnetic field which is
For the three cases mentioned above, these
have magnitudes I, L and S in units of 2 .

Resultant spin angular momentum of nucleuis

vector addition of spins of individual nucleons :

S = si
Similarly, resultant orbital angular momentum is L
= li
Since si = 1/2 , S can be either integral or halfintegral, depending on whether number of nucleons
A in the nucleus is even or odd.
Since Ij is integral (0, I, 2, etc.), L is integral or
Thus total angular momentum I of nucleus can be
either integral (for A even) or half odd integral (for
A odd).

Total nuclear angular momentum I is called

nuclear spin.
For ground state Nuclear spin I = 0 (for
even Z, even N nuclei).
This shows the tendency of nucleons inside
the nucleus, to form pairs with equal and
oppositely aligned angular momenta, which
cancel out in pairs for like nucleons.
Measured values of ground state spins of the
nuclei are small integers or half odd integers,
highest measured value being 9/2 which is
small compared to sum of lj and si of all
individual nucleons in the nucleus.

Majority of the nucleons of either type

seems to form a core in which (even

numbers of protons and neutrons are
grouped in pairs of zero spin and orbital
angular momenta so that the core itself has
zero total angular momentum).
The few remaining nucleons outside the core
determine the nuclear spin which is small
number, Integral or half odd integral. .
Spins of excited states of nuclei are deduced
from nuclear disintegration and nuclear
reaction data.