# 15.

2 Decay constant and Half-life
15.2.1 Decay constant  Law of radioactive decay states:

¨ dN ¸ ¹ is ³For a radioactive source, the decay rate ©  ª dt º directly proportional to the number of radioactive nuclei N present in the source.
i.e.

¨ dN ¸ © ¹w N ª dt º dN !  PN dt

Negative sign means the number of nuclei present decreases with time (15.2a) Decay constant

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

(15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .2a) : dN P !  dt N rate of decay P! number of radioactiv e nuclei present Hence the decay constant is defined as the probability that a radioactive nucleus will decay in one second Its unit is s-1.Rearranging eq. second.

(15. N=N0 (initial number of radioactive nuclei in the sample) and after a time t. the number of radioactive nuclei present is N. we get (15.2b) from t=0 to time t : t dN ´N0 N !  P ´0 dt N t ?ln N AN ! P?t A0 N 0 N ln ! t N0 N ! N0 e t Exponential law (15. Rearrange eq.2b) dN ! Pdt N At time t=0.2c) of radioactive decay 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .  The decay constant is a characteristic of the radioactive nuclei. (15. Integration of eq.2a).

From the eq. 15. N N0 N ! N0 e N0 2  Pt N0 8 N0 16 N0 4 T1 : half  life 2 0 T1 2 2T1 3T1 4T1 5T1 2 2 2 2 time . thus the graph of N. against the time t is shown in figure 15.2a. t Simulation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Fig.2c). (15. the number of radioactive nuclei present in a sample.2a .

the life of any radioactive nuclide is infinite.2 Half-life Definition ± is defined as the time taken for a sample of radioactive nuclides disintegrate to half of the initial number of nuclei. therefore to talk about the life of radioactive nuclide. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .2. From the graph above. we refer to its half-life. 15.

(15.2c) N : half-life.2d) The half-life of any given radioactive nuclide is constant. N ! N 0  PT1 N0 ! N0 e 2 2 .693 (15. when t 2 ! N0e 2 Pt and the definition of ! T1 . thus 1 !e 2 2 PT 1 2!e 2 taking in  PT 1 PT 1 ln 2 ! ln e T1 ! 2 2 HalfHalf-life ln 2 ! 0. it does not depend on the number of nuclei present. From the eq.5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 1234 .

Its unit depend on the unit of decay constant.5 x 109 years 24 days 3.8 days 20 minutes U Th Rn Bi 214 83 Table 15.2a 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 . hour (hr). Isotope 238 92 234 90 222 86 Half-life 4. day and year (y). Table 15.2a shows the value of half-life for several isotopes.  The units of the half-life are second (s). minute (min).

0 x 106 nuclei. hence ¸ ¨ (2) N N0e © ln 2 ¹ ¨ ¹ © 0. (1) and t =0.5T1/2 into eq. Calculate the number of nuclei present after 0.5T1/2. Solution: N0=1. (2). The half-life of the sample is T1/2.0 x 106 nuclei. t=0. a radioactive sample contains of 1.5 T 1 © © T1 ¹ © 2 ¹ª © ª 2 º ¸ ¹ ¹ º 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .Example 1: Initially.5T1/2 By rearranging the equation of half-life. we get ln 2 P! T1 2 (1)  PT 1 e 2 From the exponential law: 0 By substituting eq.

0 v 10 6 e 0.07 v 10 nuclei 5 .5 ln 2 N ! 7.N ! 1.

52 v 10 15 nuclei 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .0 v 10 23 ¸ © ¹6. NA=6.02 x 1023 nuclei 1. Example 2: A radioactive source contains 1. 239 g of Pu-239 contains 6. b. the half-life.02 v 10 23 nuclei © 239 ¹ ª º ! 2. the decay constant. If the source emits 2300 alpha particles per second.0 x 10-6 g of Pu-239 contains ¨ 1.0 x 10-6 g of Pu-239. (Given Avogadro constant.02 x 1023 mol-1) Solution: dN ! 2300 s -1 dt a. calculate a.

52 x 1015 nuclei By applying the equation for law of radioactive decay.Hence N0 = 2. The half-life of Pu-239 is . N thus !  PN0  2300 ! P 2.52 10 ! 9.13 v 10 13 s -1 b.

15 T1 ! 2 ln 2 7 .59 v 10 11 s T1 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .

2.15. unit.I.3 Activity of radioactive sample (A) ¨ dN ¸ Definition ± is defined as the decay rate © dt ¹ of a º ª radioactive sample. Its unit is number of decays per second. Other units for activity are curie (Ci) and becquerel (Bq) ± S. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .

7 v 10 decays per second 1 Bq ! 1 decay per second  Relation between activity (A) of radioactive sample and time t dN PN ± From the law of radioactive decay : dt dN and definition of activity : A dt thus. 10 A PN and  Pt A ! P . Unit conversion : 1 Ci 3.

2e) A Activity at time t A0 e  t 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Activity at time. 0 e N N ! N 0 e  Pt A0 PN 0 and (17. t=0 .

The initial activity of this isotope is 10QCi.5 QCi. the time taken for the activity to fall to 2. A0= 10QCi a. b. Given t=72 days The decay constant of the thorium-234 is ln 2 T ! P 2 ln 2 days 1 P! 24 ¨ 1n 2 ¸ © ¹ . Calculate a. Solution: T1/2= 24 ays. Example 3: Thorium-234 has a half-life of 24 days. the activity of the isotope after 72 days.

72 ª 24 º The activity of the isotope after 72 days is A ! A0 e  Pt A ! .

25 QCi 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .10 QCi e A ! 1.

b.5 i ! .5 QCi By using the equation of activity for radioactive  Pt sample. thus A ! A0 e 2. Given A=2.

10 i e ¨ 1n 2 ¸ © ¹ .

¨ 2.t ª 24 º taking ln.02 x . 5 ¸ ¨ ln 2 ¸ ln © ¹ ! © ¹t ª 10 º ª 24 º t ! 48 days 1023 mol-1) (Given Avogadro constant. NA=6.

234 90 Th 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .

47 x 109 years decays by emitting alpha particle into thorium-234 nucleus.00 QCi.Example 4: A uranium-238 isotope which has a half-life of 4. b. the mass of uranium-238 required to decay with activity of 6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 . c.0 g uranium-238. the number of alpha particles per second for the decay of 30. the decay constant. Calculate a.

47x109 years a.Solution: T1/2= 4. The decay constant of the uranium-238 is ln 2 T ! P 2 P ! 1.55 10 10 years 1 b. Using unit conversion ( Ci  decay/second ) 10 1 Ci 6 6 v 10 Ci ! .

22 v 10 decays / s 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .7 v 10 6 v 5 ! 2.22 v 10 decays/s 6 3.7 v 10 10 decays per second Thus. v 10 3. A ! 2.

22 1 ¨ 1.86 g 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .Since A ! P N N then 5 2.02 x 1023 nuclei of mass of 238 g uranium-238 ¨ 4.52 x 1022 nuclei of mass of ! © © 6.86 g Therefore the mass of the uranium-238 is given by mU ! 17.55 1 1 © © 365 24 6 ª ¸ ¹ ¹ º nucle N !4 v If 6.52 v 10 22 ¸ 4.02 v 10 23 ¹238 ¹ ª º ! 17.

55 v 10 10 A © © 365 v 24 v 3600 ª ¸ ¹ v 7. ª º ! 7.c. N 7.73 v 10 5  particles/ second 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 .59 v 10 22 nuclei The number of alpha particles per second is A dN dt PN Ignored it. ¨ 1.59 v 10 22 ¹ º A ! 3. 238 g of uranium-238 contains 6.59 v 10 22 nuclei Thus.02 x 1023 nuclei 30 g of uranium-239 contains ¨ ¸ nucl © ¹ .