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Radioactivity

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Radioactivity is
Radioactivity is the
the spontaneous
spontaneous
disintegration of
disintegration of atomic
atomic nuclei.
nuclei. The
The
nucleus emits
nucleus emits αα particles,
particles, ßß
particles, or
particles, or electromagnetic
electromagnetic rays
rays
during this
during this process.
process.

After decaying, radioactive atoms
“change” into other atoms

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Why does the atom do this?
– the nucleus of an atom attempts to become
more stable
• In some instances, a new element is
formed and in other cases, a new form of
the original element, called an isotope,
appears.
– this process of change is often referred to as
the decay of atoms.
• The rate of Radioactive decay is
described in half-lives.
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Energy is released during
radioactive decay
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Types of Nuclear
Radiation
• When an unstable
nucleus decays,
particles and energy
are given off from the
decaying nucleus.
• α and β radiation is in
the form of particles
• γ radiation is in the
form of waves-kind of
like light but higher
frequency
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Nuclear Decay

2 protons & 2 neutrons

Neutron decays into a proton
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• Alpha particles consist of two protons and two
neutrons, identical to the nucleus of a helium
atom.
• A sheet of paper or a person’s surface layer of
skin will stop them.
• Alpha particles are only considered hazardous to
a person’s health if they are ingested or inhaled
and thus come into contact with sensitive cells
such as in the lungs, liver and bones.
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• Beta particles are electrons emitted from the
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0 nuclei of many fission products.
• Unstable Neutron
decays into a proton.
• They can travel a few
feet in air but can
usually be stopped by
clothing or a few
centimeters of wood.
• They are considered
hazardous mainly if
ingested or inhaled, but
can cause radiation
damage to the skin if
the exposure is large
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• Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic
radiation (like light, radio, and television) that
come from the nucleus of a radioactive atom.
– Occurs when an unstable nucleus emits electromagnetic
radiation. The radiation has no mass, and so its emission
does not change the element.
– They penetrate matter easily and are best stopped by
water or thick layers of lead or concrete.
– Gamma radiation is hazardous to people inside and outside
of the body.
• However, gamma radiation often accompanies
alpha and beta emission, which do change the
element's identity.
• Gamma rays have the lowest ionizing power, but
the highest penetrating power.
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8 Fission and Fusion
Fission Fusion

Splitting a nucleus Combining of two nuclei.
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• Nuclear power can come from the
fission of uranium, plutonium or
thorium or the fusion of hydrogen
into helium.

• Today it is almost all uranium.

• The fission of an atom of uranium
produces 10 million times the
energy produced by the
combustion of an atom of carbon
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FUSION
• A fusion reaction occurs when nuclei of light
elements, specifically hydrogen and its isotopes
(deuterium, or "heavy water," and tritium), are
forced together at extremely high temperatures
and densities until they fuse into nuclei of heavier
elements and release enormous amounts of energy.
• If fusion is to yield net energy, the fuel must be
heated in the form of plasma (a highly ionized gas)
to a very high temperature and the plasma must
then be held together for a sufficiently long time
such that the number of fusion reactions occurring
releases more energy than was required to heat the
fuel.
Nuclear Isotope
Notations
Nuclear Isotope
Notations
• Nuclear Isotope
notation is used so we
can keep track of the
type of decay of an
atom
• Alpha and beta particles
can be included in
chemical equations to
show nuclear radiation
2 Half Life is the amount of time it takes
2 for half of the nuclei in a sample to decay

Mass
(kg)
C
12 C
14
mass number 13
C
• Carbon occurs naturally in three
isotopes.
• All of these atoms have the same
number of protons but different
numbers of neutrons.
• The number of neutrons and protons
determines the mass, so the masses
are different.
• 14C is radioactive.
14
C

• Radioactive 14C acts chemically just like
12
C, so it becomes incorporated into plants
an animals.
• When the animal/plant dies the 14C begins
to decay into 14N at a know rate, so we
can determine how long ago the organism
died.
• This is called Carbon Dating.
• It’s only good for about 50,000 years.
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6 • The half life of 14C is 5,730 years.
• If a sample originally contained
100 g, how much would be left
after 11,460 years?
50g 25g
Older Dating Methods
• The isotopes 235U and 238U
can be used to date
objects billions of years
old.
• 235U has a half life of 704
million years.
• 238U has a half life of 4.5
billion years.
• Mainly used for rocks.