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PHYSICS

CHAPTER 28
is defined as the spontaneous
disintegration of certain atomic
nuclei accompanied by the
emission of alpha particles,
beta particles or gamma

(2 Hours)
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PHYSICS
CHAPTER 28
Learning Outcome:
28.1

Explain , +, and decays.

State decay law and use

dN
N
dt

Derive and use

N N 0 e t OR

A A0 e t

T1/ 2

ln 2

PHYSICS

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is defined as the phenomenon in which an

unstable nucleus disintegrates to acquire a more
stable nucleus without absorb an external energy.
The radioactive decay is a spontaneous reaction
that is unplanned, cannot be predicted and
independent of physical conditions (such as
pressure, temperature) and chemical changes.
This reaction is random reaction because the
probability of a nucleus decaying at a given instant is
the same for all the nuclei in the sample.
Radioactive radiations are emitted when an unstable
nucleus decays. The radiations are alpha particles,
beta particles and gamma-rays.
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An alpha particle consists of two protons and two neutrons.

It is identical to a helium nucleus and its symbol is
4
4
2 He OR 2
It is positively charged particle and its value is +2e with mass
of 4.002603 u.
When a nucleus undergoes alpha decay it loses four nucleons,
two of which are protons, thus the reaction can be represented
by general equation below:

A 4
4
Z 2Y 2 He
(Parent) (Daughter) ( particle)
Examples of decay :
A
ZX

218
214
4
Po

Pb

84
82
2 He Q
230
226
4
Th

Ra

90
88
2 He Q

226
222
4
Ra

Rn

88
86
2 He Q
238
234
4
U

Th

92
90
2 He Q

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Beta particles are electrons or positrons (sometimes is called

beta-minus and beta-plus particles).
The symbols represent the beta-minus and beta-plus (positron)
are shown below:
Beta-minus 0
(electron) : 1

OR

Beta-plus
(positron) :

0
OR
1e

Beta-minus particle is negatively charged of 1e and its mass

equals to the mass of an electron.
Beta-plus (positron) is positively charged of +1e (antiparticle
of electron) and it has the same mass as the electron.
In beta-minus decay, an electron is emitted, thus the mass
number does not changed but the charge of the parent
nucleus increases by one as shown below:

A
0
1 e
Z 1Y
(Parent) (Daughter) ( particle)
A
ZX

Q
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Examples of

minus decay:
234
234
0
Th

Pa

90
91
1 e Q
234
234
0
Pa

91
92
1 e Q
214
214
0
Bi

Po

83
84
1 e Q

In beta-plus decay, a positron is emitted, this time the charge of

the parent nucleus decreases by one as shown below:
A
ZX

(Parent)

A
0

Y
1e
Z 1
(Daughter) (Positron)

plus decay is
1
1
0
p

1
0
1e v Q

For example of

Neutrino is uncharged
particle with negligible
mass.
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Neutrino (and antineutrino) was introduce to make sure beta

decay follow the conservation of relativistic energy (kinetic and
rest energies)

relativistic energy
before reaction

relativistic energy
after reaction

and conservation of linear momentum:

linear momentum
before reaction

linear momentum
after reaction

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/particles/neutrino.html#c1

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Gamma rays are high energy photons (electromagnetic

Emission of gamma ray does not change the parent nucleus
into a different nuclide, since neither the charge nor the
nucleon number is changed.
A gamma ray photon is emitted when a nucleus in an excited
state makes a transition to a ground state.
Examples of decay are :

218

214
4
Po

Pb

84
82
2 He
234

234
0
Pa

91
92
1 e
208

208
Ti

81
81Ti

Gamma ray

It is uncharged (neutral) ray and zero mass.

The differ between gamma-rays and x-rays of the same
wavelength only in the manner in which they are produced;
gamma-rays are a result of nuclear processes, whereas x8
rays originate outside the nucleus.

PHYSICS

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28.1.4 Comparison of the properties between alpha

particle, beta particle and gamma ray.

Table 15.1 shows the comparison between the radioactive

Alpha
Beta
Gamma
1e OR +1e 0 (uncharged)

Charge

+2e

Deflection by
electric and
magnetic fields

Yes

Yes

No

Strong

Moderate

Weak

Penetration power

Weak

Moderate

Strong

Ability to affect a
photographic plate

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ionization power

Ability to produce
Table 28.1 fluorescence

PHYSICS

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Figures 28.1 and 28.2 show a deflection of , and in electric

and magnetic fields.

Figure 28.1

source

Figure 28.2

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PHYSICS

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Law of radioactive decay states:

dN
is directly
For a radioactive source, the decay rate

dt

proportional to the number of radioactive nuclei N

remaining in the source.
i.e. dN
Negative sign means the number of

N
dt

dN
N
dt

(28.1)

Decay constant

dN
dt
N

decay rate

Hence the decay constant is defined as the probability that a

radioactive nucleus will decay in one second. Its unit is s1.
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The decay constant is a characteristic of the radioactive nuclei.

Rearrange the eq. (15.1), we get

dN
(28.2)
dt
N
At time t=0, N=N0 (initial number of radioactive nuclei in the
sample) and after a time t, the number of remaining nuclei is
N. Integration of the eq. (28.2) from t=0 to time t :
N dN
t
dt
N0 N
0

ln N NN

t 0
t

N
ln
t
N0

N N 0e

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From the eq. (28.3), thus the graph of N, the number of

remaining radioactive nuclei in a sample, against the time t is
shown in Figure 28.3.

Simulation 28.1

N0

Note:

N N 0e
N0
2
N0
8

N0
4

N0
16

From the graph (decay curve),

the life of any radioactive
nuclide is infinity, therefore to
nuclide, we refer to its half-life.

Figure 28.3

time , t
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is defined as the time taken for a sample of radioactive

nuclides disintegrate to half of the initial number of nuclei.
From the eq. (28.3), N N 0 e t and the definition of half-life,

t T1/ 2 ; N N 0 , thus
2
1
N0
T1 / 2
T1 / 2

e
N 0e
2
2
T1 / 2

when

Half-life

2e
ln 2 ln eT1 / 2
ln 2 0.693
T1/ 2

(28.4)

The half-life of any given radioactive nuclide is constant, it

does not depend on the number of remaining nuclei.
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The units of the half-life are second (s), minute (min), hour
(hr), day (d) and year (y). Its unit depend on the unit of decay
constant.
Table 28.2 shows the value of half-life for several isotopes.
Isotope

Half-life

238
92 U
226
88 Ra

210
884 Po
234
90Th
222
86 Rn

138 days

214
83 Bi

20 minutes

24 days
3.8 days

Table 28.2
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31.1.7 Activity of radioactive sample (A)

dN

of a radioactive sample.
dt

Its unit is number of decays per second.

Other units for activity are curie (Ci) and becquerel (Bq) S.I.
unit.
Unit conversion:

1 Ci 3.7 1010 decays per second

1 Bq 1 decay per second

Relation between activity (A) of radioactive sample and time t :

dN
From the law of radioactive decay :
N
dN dt
and definition of activity : A
dt
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Thus

A N

and

N N 0e

A N 0e t

N 0 e t and A0 N 0

A A0 e
Activity at time t

(28.5)

Activity at time, t =0

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Example 28.1 :
A radioactive nuclide A disintegrates into a stable nuclide B. The
half-life of A is 5.0 days. If the initial number of nuclide A is 1.01020,
calculate the number of nuclide B after 20 days.
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Solution : T1/ 2 5.0 days; N 0 1.0 10 ; t 20 days

A BQ

ln 2

T1/ 2

ln 2

5.0
0.139 days1

The number of remaining nuclide A is

N N 0 e t

N 1.0 10 20 e 0.139 20
6.2 1018 nuclei

9.38 1019 nuclei

Therefore the number of nuclide B formed is

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Example 28.2 :
a. Radioactive decay is a random and spontaneous nuclear
reaction. Explain the terms random and spontaneous.
b. 80% of a radioactive substance decays in 4.0 days. Determine
i. the decay constant,
ii. the half-life of the substance.
Solution :
a. Random means that the time of decay for each nucleus
cannot be predicted. The probability of decay for each
nucleus is the same.
Spontaneous means it happen by itself without external
stimuli. The decay is not affected by the physical conditions
and chemical changes.

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Solution :
b. At time t 4.0 days,
The number of remaining nuclei is

80

N N0
N0
100
0.2 N 0 nuclei

i. By applying the exponential law of radioactive decay, thus the

decay constant is

N N 0 e t

0.2 N 0 N 0 e 4.0
0.2 e 4.0
ln 0.2 ln e 4.0
ln 0.2 4.0ln e

ii. The half-life of the substance is

T1/ 2

ln 2

T1/ 2

ln 2

0.402
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Example 28.3 :
Phosphorus-32 is a beta emitter with a decay constant of 5.6 107
s1. For a particular application, the phosphorus-32 emits 4.0 107
beta particles every second. Determine
a. the half-life of the phosphorus-32,
b. the mass of pure phosphorus-32 will give this decay rate.
(Given the Avogadro constant, NA =6.02 1023 mol1)
Solution :

dN
5.6 10 s ;
4.0 10 7 s 1
dt
7

T1/ 2

ln 2

ln 2

5.6 10 7
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Solution :

dN
5.6 10 s ;
4.0 107 s 1
dt
7

b. By using the radioactive decay law, thus

dN
N 0
dt
4.0 10 7 5.6 10 7 N 0

N 0 7.14 1013 nuclei

6.02 1023 nuclei of P-32 has a mass of 32 g

13

7
.
14

10
7.14 1013 nuclei of P-32 has a mass of
32
23
6.02 10

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Example 28.4 :
A thorium-228 isotope which has a half-life of 1.913 years decays
by emitting alpha particle into radium-224 nucleus. Calculate
a. the decay constant.
b. the mass of thorium-228 required to decay with activity of
12.0 Ci.
c. the number of alpha particles per second for the decay of 15.0 g
thorium-228.
(Given the Avogadro constant, NA =6.02 1023 mol1)
Solution : T1/ 2 1.913 y 1.913 365 24 60 60

6.03 10 7 s

a. The decay constant is given by

T1/ 2

ln 2

6.03 10
7

ln 2

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Solution :
b. By using the unit conversion ( Ci decay/second ),

the activity is

Since

10

A N then
A

4.44 1011
N
N

1.15 10 8
19
3.86 10 nuclei

If 6.02 1023 nuclei of Th-228 has a mass of 228 g thus

19

3
.
86

10
19
3.86 10 nuclei of Th-228 has a mass of
6.02 1023 228

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Solution :
c. If 228 g of Th-228 contains of 6.02 1023 nuclei thus

15 .0
23
15.0 g of Th-228 contains of
6
.
02

10

228

given by
Ignored it.
dN

dt

1.15 108 3.96 1022

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PHYSICS
CHAPTER 28
Learning Outcome:
28.2

Explain the application of radioisotopes as tracers.

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PHYSICS
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28.2 Radioisotope as tracers

is defined as an isotope of an element that is radioactive.

It is produced in a nuclear reactor, where stable nuclei are
bombarded by high speed neutrons until they become
31
1
32
a. 15 P 0 n 15 P Q
0
P32
S

16
1 e Q
23
1
24
11 Na 0 n 11 Na Q
32
15

b.

24
11

Na Mg e Q

c. 13 A l 0 n 13 Al
27

28

28
13

24
12

0
1

28
Al14
Si 01 e Q

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PHYSICS

CHAPTER 28

Since radioisotope has the same chemical properties as the

stable isotopes then they can be used to trace the path made
by the stable isotopes.
Its method :
A small amount of diluted radioisotope solution is prepared.
The solution is either swallowed by the patient or injected
into the body of the patient.
After a while certain part of the body will have absorbed
either a normal amount, or an amount which is larger than
normal or less than normal of the radioisotope. A detector
(such as Geiger counter ,gamma camera, etc..) then
measures the count rate at the part of the body
concerned.
It is used to investigate organs in human body such as kidney,
thyroid gland, heart, brain, and etc..
It also used to monitor the blood flow and measure the blood
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volume.

PHYSICS

CHAPTER 28

Example 28.5 :
A small volume of a solution which contained a radioactive isotope
of sodium had an activity of 12000 disintegrations per minute when
it was injected into the bloodstream of a patient. After 30 hours the
activity of 1.0 cm3 of the blood was found to be 0.50 disintegrations
per minute. If the half-life of the sodium isotope is taken as 15
hours, estimate the volume of blood in the patient.
Solution : T1/ 2 15 h; A0 12000 min 1 ; t 30 h
The decay constant of the sodium isotope is

T1/ 2

ln 2

15

ln 2

4.62 10 2 h 1

A A0 e t
4.6210 2 30
12000 e

A 3000 min 1

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1

Solution : T1/ 2 15 h; A0 12000 min ; t 30 h

In the dilution tracing method, the activity of the sample, A is
proportional to the volume of the sample present, V.
then

A V
A1 kV1

and

A2 kV2

final
initial
thus the ratio of activities is given by

A1 V1

A2 V2

(28.6)

0 .5
1

3000 V2
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In medicine

To destroy cancer cells by gamma-ray from a high-activity

source of Co-60.

To treat deep-lying tumors by planting radium-226 or caesium137 inside the body close to the tumor.

In agriculture

To enable scientists to formulate fertilizers that will increase the

production of food.
To develop new strains of food crops that are resistant to
diseases, give high yield and are of high quality.
To increase the time for food preservation.

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In industry

To measure the wear and tear of machine part and the

effectiveness of lubricants.

To detect flaws in underground pipes e.g. pipes use to carry

natural petroleum gas.

To monitor the thickness of metal sheet during manufacture by

passing it between gamma-ray and a suitable detector.

To estimate the age of an archaeological object found by

referring to carbon-14 dating.

To estimate the geological age of a rock by referring to

potassium-40 dating.

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PHYSICS
Example 28.6 :

CHAPTER 28

53

the treatment of thyroid gland cancer. A certain sample is required

to have an activity of 8.0 105 Bq at the time it is injected into the
patient.
a. Calculate the mass of the iodine-131 present in the sample to
produce the required activity.
b. If it takes 24 hours to deliver the sample to the hospital, what
should be the initial mass of the sample?
c. What is the activity of the sample after 24 hours in the body of the
patient?

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Solution :

A0 8.0 10 5 Bq

T1/ 2

ln 2

6.9110
5

ln 2

1.00 106 s 1

a. From the relation between the decay rate and activity,

dN
A0

dt 0
A0 N 0
8.0 10 5 1.00 10 6 N 0
N 0 8.0 10 11 nuclei

If 6.02 1023 nuclei of I-131 has a mass of 131 g thus

11

8
.
0

10
11
8.0 10 nuclei of I-131 has a mass of
6.02 1023 131

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T1/ 2 8.024 60 60 6.91 10 5 s;

A0 8.0 10 5 Bq
t 24 hr 24 3600 8.64104 s

Solution :
b. Given

1.74 1010 g

N0 : initial mass of I-131

By applying the exponential law of radioactive decay, thus

N N 0 e t

1.74 10 N0e
10 1.00106 8.64104
N0 1.74 10 e
1.00106 8.64104

10

c. Given t 24 hr 24 3600 8.6410

The activity of the sample is

A A0 e

A 8.0 10 e
5

1.00106 8.64104

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Example 28.7 :
An archeologist on a dig finds a fragment of an ancient basket
woven from grass. Later, it is determined that the carbon-14 content
of the grass in the basket is 9.25% that of an equal carbon sample
from the present day grass. If the half-life of the carbon-14 is 5730
years, determine the age of the basket.
Solution :

9.25
2
N
N 0 9.25 10 N 0 ; T1/2 5730 years
100

T1/ 2

ln 2

5730

1.21 10 4 y 1

The age of the basket is given by

N N 0e

ln 2

9.25 10 N 0 N 0 e

1.2110 4 t

ln 9.25 10 2 1.21 10 4 t ln e
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CHAPTER 28

Exercise 28.1 :
Given NA =6.021023 mol1
1.

Living wood takes in radioactive carbon-14 from the

atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis, the ratio of
carbon-14 to carbon-12 atoms being 1.25 to 1012. When the
wood dies the carbon-14 decays, its half-life being 5600
years. 4 g of carbon-14 from a piece of dead wood gave a
total count rate of 20.0 disintegrations per minute. Determine
the age of the piece of wood.
ANS. : 8754 years
2. A drug prepared for a patient is tagged with Tc-99 which has a
half-life of 6.05 h.
a. What is the decay constant of this isotope?
b. How many Tc-99 nuclei are required to give an activity of
1.50 Ci?
c. If the drug of activity in (b) is injected into the patient 2.05 h
after it is prepared, determine the drugs activity.
(Physics, 3rd edition, James S. Walker, Q27&28, p.1107)

ANS. : 0.115 h1; 1.7109 nuclei; 1.19 Ci

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PHYSICS

CHAPTER 28

Good luck
For
2nd semester examination

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