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Radioactivity. End of early 19 th century – Some nuclei are unstable – Spontaneously emit particles, decay, and become different nuclei.

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Presentation on theme: "Radioactivity. End of early 19 th century – Some nuclei are unstable – Spontaneously emit particles, decay, and become different nuclei."— Presentation transcript:

1 Radioactivity

2 End of early 19 th century – Some nuclei are unstable – Spontaneously emit particles, decay, and become different nuclei

3 Alpha, beta, and gamma particles Distinguished on basis of ionizing and penetrating power Ionization – Knock electrons out of the atoms of the gases in the air Letting these ionizing radiations pass through regions of magnetic fields – 2 of emissions were opp. Charged – 3 rd electrically neutral

4 Alpha particles Positive emissions Nuclei of helium Mass = 4x hydrogen atom Electric charge = +2e

5 Beta particles Negative emissions -e

6 Gamma rays Neutral Photons Smaller than x-ray wavelengths

7 Absorption Alpha are easiest to absorb – Few centimeters of air – Specific energies – slow Beta – Few cm of paper – Continuous range of energies – fast Gamma – Penetrate metallic foils – Discrete values – Speed of light

8 Detecting radiation Geiger-Muller tube – Enters chamber through a thin window – Chamber filled with gas, which is ionized – More ions created from collisions – Registers as a current Serge plot – Neutron # vs. proton # – Stable-generally more neutrons

9 Law of radioactive decay Statistical Exponential decrease of the # of decaying nuclei Half-life – After this, the number of nuclei that have not yet decayed is reduced by a factor of 2

10 Stability and Instability in Nuclei The answer lies in conservation of energy. A nucleus will decay if there is a set of particles with lower total mass that can be reached by any of the above types of decay process or simply by fission, a process in which a massive nucleus splits into two less massive ones. Alpha decay is also a type of fission, common because the alpha particle is a particularly low energy arrangement of two protons and two neutrons.conservation of energy Why are some nuclei stable while others decay radioactively?

11 Stability and Instability in Nuclei The mass of a nucleus is determined by the sum of the energies of all its constituents. The energies of the constituents depend on their masses, their motion, and their interactions. interactions

12 Example -- Helium 4 Let us consider a Helium 4 nucleus. The two protons occupy the two lowest possible energy states for protons and the two neutrons occupy the two lowest energy states for neutrons. This fills the lowest energy levels for both types of particles. Their interactions are such that the mass of this nucleus is less than the mass of a helium three nucleus plus a free neutron, so it cannot decay into that combination.

13 Example -- Helium 4 If one of the neutrons could beta decay it would produce a Lithium 4 nucleus (3 protons and one neutron) plus an electron and an anti-electron type neutrino. But the sum of these masses is greater than the Helium 4 mass so this decay is forbidden too. But why is Lithium 4 more massive than Helium 4 even though a free neutron is more massive than a free proton?

14 Example -- Helium 4 The reason is that a third proton cannot be put into as low an energy state in the nucleus as occupied by the second neutron. Just as for electrons in an atom, the lowest energy level in the nucleus has only two states for protons and two states for neutrons. The pattern of stable nuclides thus consists of nuclei with roughly equal numbers of protons and neutrons (or a few extra neutrons because electrical repulsion between protons makes the energy levels for protons slightly higher than the equivalent levels for neutrons). Nuclei with excess protons decay via beta-plus emission while nuclei with too many neutrons decay by beta-minus or electron emission.

15 Example -- Helium 4 Beta decay and gamma decay often occur as steps in a chain of radioactive decays that begins with the fission of some heavy element. The fragments which appear after this fission have the right number of neutrons and protons to be some nucleus, but they are not arranged in the right energy levels because they just split off in whatever arrangement they happened to find themselves in. Secondary transitions in which a proton moves from a higher level to a lower one with emission of a photon are then common, as are beta- emission transitions in which either a proton or a neutron moves to lower energy level (and changes type). Only when all the fragments have settled down to their lowest mass (energy) forms does the decay chain end. Different steps in the chain may have very different half-lives.

16 Neutron Beta Decay A neutron (udd) decays to a proton (uud), an electron, and an antineutrino. This is called neutron beta decay. (The term beta ray was used for electrons in nuclear decays because they didn't know they were electrons!)

17 Frame 1: The neutron (charge = 0) made of up, down, down quarks. Frame 2: One of the the down quarks is transformed into an up quark. Since the down quark has a charge of -1/3 and and the up quark has a charge of 2/3, it follows that this process is mediated by a virtual W- particle, which carries away a (-1) charge (thus charge is conserved!) Frame 3: The new up quark rebounds away from the emitted W-. The neutron now has become a proton.

18 Frame 4: An electron and antineutrino emerge from the virtual W- boson. Frame 5: The proton, electron, and the antineutrino move away from one another. The intermediate stages of this process occur in about a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second, and are not observable.

19 3 types of nuclear radioactive decay: alpha, beta and gamma emission.decay An alpha particle is a Helium 4 nucleus (two protons and two neutrons). It is produced by nuclear fission in which a massive nucleus breaks apart into two less-massive nuclei (one of them the alpha particle). This is a strong interaction process.

20 3 types of nuclear radioactive decay: alpha, beta and gamma emission.decay A beta particle is an electron. It emerges from a weak decay process in which one of the neutrons inside an atom decays to produce a proton, the beta electron and an anti-electron- type neutrino. Some nuclei instead undergo beta plus decay, in which a proton decays to become a neutron plus a positron (anti-electron or beta- plus particle) and an electron- type neutrino.

21 3 types of nuclear radioactive decay: alpha, beta and gamma emission.decay A gamma particle is a photon. It is produced as a step in a radioactive decay chain when a massive nucleus produced by fission relaxes from the excited state in which it first formed towards its lowest energy or ground-state configuration.

22 Modes of decay Radionuclides can undergo a number of different reactions. These are summarized in the following table. A nucleus with charge (atomic number) Z and atomic weight A is represented as (A, Z).

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