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Nuclear reactions

Nuclear Chemistry
Nucleons - nuclear particles: neutrons and protons Isotope - atoms with identical numbers of protons (atomic #) but different mass numbers Nuclides - specific isotope; atoms with particular mass and atomic numbers The following is an example of a nuclide symbol

12 6

Number of neutrons and protons = mass no Number of protons = atomic no


Nuclear Chemistry
Nuclear reactions - chemical changes which involve nuclear particles and radioactive decay Radioactive decay - nucleus of element spontaneously decomposes by emitting a nuclear particle, electron, positron, or electromagnetic radiation Some elements spontaneously decompose Radioactive decay shown by nuclear equation

Nuclear Equations
A nuclear equation is a symbolic representation of a nuclear reaction using nuclide symbols. The radioactive decay of carbon-14 by beta emission is written

The chemical composition of the nuclide is not represented, and a new element is formed as product along with the type of emission

(3) Beta decay. Occurs because the nucleus has too many neutrons relative to protons.

A neutron changes into a proton and emits an electron.

The daughter nucleus has an atomic number 1 more and an atomic mass the same as the parent nucleus.


14 6

C 14 N+ 7

0 -1

Nuclear Equations and Charge

Nuclear Equation - expressed with nuclide symbols
alpha particle

Total charge is conservative sum of subscripts of react = sum subscripts of prod Total number of nucleons is conservative

sum of superscripts react. = sum of superscripts prod.

(2) Alpha decay. Occurs when the nucleus is too large. An alpha particle is emitted, reducing the size of the nucleus.

The daughter nucleus has an atomic number 2 less and an atomic mass 4 less than the parent nucleus. Example:
238 92 4 U 234 Th + He 90 2

(1) Gamma decay. Occurs when a nucleus has excess energy. A gamma ray (packet of energy) is emitted from the nucleus.

The parent and daughter nuclides are the same.

87 38

Sr *

87 38

Sr + .

The * in the reaction denotes an excited nuclear state.

Uranium-238 Radioactive Decay Series

Half-life measures the rate of radioactive decay.

Half-life = time required for half of the radioactive sample to decay. The half-life for a radioactive element is a constant rate of decay. Strontium-90 has a half-life of 29 years. If you have 10 g of strontium-90 today, there will be 5.0 g remaining in 29 years.

Decay curves show the rate of decay for radioactive elements.

The curve shows the relationship between half-life and percentage of original substance remaining.
The decay curve for strontium-90

Here's a plot of the activity of a radionuclide.

The initial activity was chosen to be 1000 for this plot.

The half-life is 10 (in whatever time units we are using).

All decay curves look like this; only the numbers on the axes will differ, depending on
the radionuclide (which determines the half-life) and the amount of radioactive material (which determines the initial activity).

There are many radioisotopes that can be used for dating.

Parent isotope = the original, radioactive material Daughter isotope = the stable product of the radioactive decay