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1 Atomic Theory and Radioactive Decay

Natural background radiation exists all around us. This radiation consists of high energy particles or waves being emitted from a variety of materials. Radioactivity is the release of high energy particles or waves. Being exposed to radioactive materials can be beneficial or harmful. X-rays, radiation therapy and electricity generation are beneficial. High energy particles and waves can do damage to DNA in our cells. When atoms lose high energy particles and waves, ions or even new atoms can be formed. High energy waves and particles are called radiation when they leave the atom.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Searching for Invisible Rays

Radiation is everywhere, but can be difficult to detect. Roentgen named X-rays with an X 100 years ago because they were previously unknown. Becquerel realized uranium emitted seemingly invisible energy as well. Marie Curie and her husband Pierre named this energy radioactivity. Early discoveries of radiation relied on photographic equipment Later, more sophisticated devices such as the Geiger-Mller counter were developed to more precisely measure radioactivity.

Radium salts, after being placed on a photographic plate, leave behind the dark traces of radiation.

Isotopes and Mass Number

Isotopes are different atoms of the same element, with the difference between the two atoms being the number of neutrons in the nucleus. Isotopes have the same number of protons - and therefore the same atomic number - as each other. By having different numbers of neutrons, isotopes have different mass numbers. Isotopes of an element have the same symbol and same atomic number Mass number refers to the protons + neutrons in an isotope Atomic mass = proportional average of the mass numbers for all isotopes of an element. 19.9% of boron atoms have 5 neutrons, 80.1% have 6 neutrons 19.9% have a mass number of 10, and 80.1% have a mass number of 11 (.199 * 10) + (.801*11) = 10.8 = atomic mass of boron

Representing Isotopes
Isotopes are written using standard atomic notation. Chemical symbol + atomic number + mass number. Potassium has three isotopes,

Potassium is found in nature in a certain ratio of isotopes 93.2% is potassium-39, 1.0% is potassium-40, and 6.7% is potassium-41 Atomic mass = (.932 x 39) + (.001 x 40) + (.067 x 41) = 39.1

Radioactive Decay
Unlike all previously discovered chemical reactions, radioactivity sometimes resulted in the formation of completely new atoms. Radioactivity results from having an unstable nucleus. When these nuclei lose energy and break apart, decay occurs. Radioactive decay releases energy from the nucleus as radiation. Radioactive atoms release energy until they become stable, often as different atoms. An element may have onlycertain isotopes that are radioactive. These are called radioisotopes

Radioisotope uranium-238 decays in several stages until it finally becomes lead-206

Three Types of Radiation

Rutherford identified three types of radiation using an electric field. Positive alpha particles were attracted to the negative plate. Negative beta particles were attracted to the positive plate. Neutral gamma particles did not move towards any plate.

Alpha Radiation Alpha radiation is a stream of alpha particles, . Positively charged, and are the most massive of the radiation types. Alpha particles are essentially the same as a helium atom. Alpha particles are represented by the symbols . Because it has two protons, it has a charge of 2+. The release of alpha particles is called alpha decay. Alpha particles are slow and penetrate materials much less than the other forms of radiation. A sheet of paper will stop an alpha particle.

Radium-226 releases an alpha particle and becomes Radon-222. Radon has two less protons than radium.

Beta Radiation
Beta radiation, , is an electron. negatively charged, and are less massive than alpha radiation. Beta particles are represented by the symbols . Electrons are very tiny, so beta particles are assigned a mass of 0. Since there is only an electron, a beta particle has a charge of 1. Beta decay occurs when a neutron changes into a proton + an electron. The proton stays in the nucleus, and the electron is released. It takes a thin sheet of aluminum foil to stop a beta particle.

Iodine-131 releases a beta particle and becomes Xenon-131. A neutron has turned into a proton + the released electron.

Gamma Radiation
Gamma radiation, , is a ray of high energy, short-wavelength radiation. Gamma radiation has no charge and no mass, . Gamma radiation is the highest energy form of electromagnetic radiation. It takes thick blocks of lead or concrete to stop gamma rays. Gamma decay results from energy being released from a highenergy nucleus. Often, other kinds of radioactive decay will also release gamma radiation. Uranium-238 decays into an alpha particle and also releases gamma rays.

Radiation and Radioactive Decay Summaries, and Nuclear equations for radioactive decay

Nuclear equations are written like chemical equations, but represent changes in the nucleus of atoms. Chemical equations represent changes in the position of atoms, not changes to the atoms themselves. 1. The sum of the mass numbers should equal. 2. The sum of the charges should equal.

7.2 Half-life It can be difficult to determine the ages of objects by sight alone. Radioactivity provides a method to determine age by measuring relative amounts of remaining radioactive material to stable products formed. Carbon dating measure the ratio of carbon-12 and carbon-14. Stable carbon-12 and radioactive carbon-14 exist naturally in a constant ratio. In nature, carbon-12 appears 98.9% of the time, while one carbon-14 atom appears for every 1 trillion normal atoms. When an organism dies, carbon-14 stops being created and slowly decays. Measuring the relative amounts of carbon-12 : carbon14 is called radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating only works for organisms less than 50 000 years old The half-life of carbon-14 is 5730 years.

Using radiocarbon dating, these cave paintings of horses, from France, were determined to have been drawn 30 000 years ago.

The Rate of Radioactive Decay Half-life measure 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 strontium90 today, there will be 5 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

Common Isotope Pairs There are many radioisotopes that can be used for dating. o Parent isotope = the original, radioactive material. o Daughter isotope = the stable product of the radioactive decay. The rate of decay remains constant, but some elements require one step to decay, while others decay over many steps before reaching a stable daughter isotope. Carbon-14 decays into nitrogen-14 in one step Uranium-235 decays into lead-207 in fifteen steps. Thorium-235 decays into lead-208 in ten steps.

The Potassium-40 Clock Radioisotopes with very long half-lives can help determine the age of very old things. The potassium-40/argon-40 clock has a half-life of 1.3 billion years. Argon-40 produced by the decay of potassium-40 becomes trapped in rock. Ratio of potassium-40 : argon-40 shows age of rock.

7.3 Nuclear Reactions Nuclear fission and fusion are processes that involve extremely large amounts of energy. Fission = the splitting of nuclei

Fusion = the joining of nuclei Nuclear power plants can generate large amounts of electricity. In Canada, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick currently use nuclear power. Canadian-made nuclear reactors are called CANDU reactors. CANDU reactors are considered safe and effective, and are sold throughout the world. Nuclear Fission o Nuclear energy used to produce power comes from fission. o Nuclear fission is the splitting of one heavy nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei, as well as some sub-atomic particles and energy. o A heavy nucleus is usually unstable, due to many + protons pushing apart. o When fission occurs: 1. Energy is produced. 2. More neutrons are produced. o Nuclear reactions are different than chemical reactions. o In chemical reactions, mass is conserved, energy changes are relatively small. o There are no changes to the nuclei in chemical reactions o In nuclear reactions, the actual nucleus of atoms changes. o Protons, neutrons, electrons and/or gamma rays can be lost or gained. o Small changes of mass = huge changes in energy Nuclear Equations for Induced Nuclear Reactions Natural radioactive decay consists of the release of alpha, beta and gamma radiation. Scientists can also force ( = induce) nuclear reactions by smashing nuclei with alpha, beta and gamma radiation.

The rules for writing these equations are the same as earlier nuclear equations Mass numbers must equal on both sides of the equation Charges must equal on both sides of the equation

Nuclear Fission of Uranium-235 It is much easier to crash neutral neutron than a positive proton into a nucleus to release energy. Most nuclear fission reactors and weapons use this principle. A neutron, , crashes into an atom of stable uranium-235 to create unstable uranium-236, which then undergoes radioactive decay. After several steps, atoms of krypton and barium are formed, along with the release of 3 neutrons and huge quantities of energy.

The induced nuclear fission of uranium-235. This nuclear reaction is the origin of nuclear power and nuclear bombs.

Chain Reactions Once the nuclear fission reaction has started, it can keep going. The neutrons released in the induced reaction can then trigger more reactions on other uranium-235 atoms. This chain reaction can quickly get out of control Fermi realized that materials that could absorb some neutrons could help to control the chain reaction. Nuclear reactors have complex systems to ensure the chain reaction stays at safe levels. An uncontrolled chain reaction can result in the release of excess energy of harmful radiation It is on this concept that nuclear bombs are created.

CANDU Reactors and Hazardous Wastes Canadas nuclear research into the safe use of nuclear reactions has resulted in the creation of CANDU reactors. CANDU rectors are found in various countries around the world. Canada, South Korea, China, India, Argentina, Romania and Pakistan The reactors are known to be safe and easy to shut down in an emergency. Heat energy produced turns electricity-generating turbines. Hazardous wastes produced by nuclear reactions are problematic. Some waste products, like fuel rods, can be re-used Some products are very radioactive, however, and must be stored away from living things. Most of this waste is buried underground, or stored in concrete It takes 20 half-lives (thousands of years) before the material is safe.

Nuclear Fusion Nuclear fusion = joining of two light nuclei into one heavier nucleus. In the core of the Sun, two hydrogen nuclei join under tremendous heat and pressure to form a helium nucleus. When the helium atom is formed, huge amounts of energy are released.

Scientists cannot yet find a safe, manageable method to harness the energy of nuclear fusion. So-called cold fusion would occur at temperatures and pressures that could be controlled.

The fusion of hydrogen nuclei