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Hwa Chong Institution

Secondary 2 Lower Secondary Science


Science Term 2 ACE Assignment
Online Lesson – Periodic Table (Task 2)

Name: Keven Loo Yuquan (14) Class: 2I1 Date: 21 January


2011

Find out more about one of the following scientists and describe their
contributions to our knowledge about the structure of the atom. In your
report, you need to include:
• full name, place of birth, date of birth and death
• a brief description of the type of work the scientists did in his / her
lifetime
• their contribution to our understanding of the structure of the atom
• the technology available to the scientist that enabled him/her to make
the discovery
• a description of how relevant the scientist's theory is to today's
understanding of the structure of an atom.
Choose from John Dalton, Sir William Ramsay, Marie Curie, J.J. Thompson,
Henry Moseley, Max Planck, Eugen Goldstein, Lord Rutherford, Frederick
Soddy, Sir James Chadwick, Niels Bohr, Louis de Broglie.

The scientist I have chosen to research about is Marie Curie.

The full name of the scientist is Marie Skłodowska Curie. She was born on 7
November 1867, in Warsaw, which was then in the Russian Empire, but now
in Poland. She died on 4 July 1934, at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy,
Haute-Savoie, eastern France. The cause of her death was from aplastic
anemia, which was almost certainly contracted from exposure to radiation. As
the damaging effects of radiation were not clearly known then, much of her
work was carried in a shed without proper safety measures. She had carried
test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and stored them in
her desk drawer, remarking on the “pretty blue-green light that the
substances gave off in the dark”.

The type of work she did in her lifetime were both related to the field of
Chemistry and Physics, and eventually she won the 1903 Nobel Prize for
Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Some of her achievements in
her lifetime include: creating a theory of radioactivity (she coined the term),
finding methods for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two
news elements, polonium (which was name after her birth country) and
radium.

Her contribution to our current understanding of the structure of the atom


include:
• finding that the activity of the uranium compounds depended only on
the quantity of uranium present. She had shown that the radiation was
not the outcome of some interaction of molecules, but must come from
the atom itself. In scientific terms, this was the most important single
piece of work that she conducted.
• formulating the theory of radioactivity, that each atom also contained
an amazingly large amount of energy. This was the source of the
mysterious energy of radioactivity—it was a fundamental property of
matter itself.
• discovering radioactivity in thorium, discovering radium and polonium
from her experiments with pitchblende and torbernite
• demonstrated that radioactivity is not a result of interaction between
elements but instead is a property of an atom
• building the foundation (by her work) for other scientists, such as Lord
Rutherford, to understand the atom further, by providing him with a
source of radioactivity in which they could probe the structure of the
atom further.

At her time, the technology/items/theories/knowledge that enabled her to


make her discovery was:
• The electrometer, a device that she and her brother invented, which
measured electrical charge. Using this device, she discovered that
uranium causes the air around it to conduct electricity. This helped her
to find that the activity of the uranium compounds depended only on
the quantity of uranium present. She had also shown that the radiation
was not the outcome of some interaction of molecules, but must come
from the atom itself.
• Pitchblende and torbernite. Her electrometer showed that pitchblende
was four times as active as uranium itself, and torbernite twice as
active. She concluded that, if her earlier results relating the quantity of
uranium to its activity were correct, then these two minerals must
contain small quantities of some other substance that was far more
active than uranium itself.
• Pestle and mortar. She used this in her first attempt to find the
unknown element which made pitchblende and torbernite even more
radioactive than uranium.
• Differential crystallization, which allowed her work of extracting and
isolating pure radium metal to study.

Her theory (theory of radioactivity) has propelled many later scientists to


probe the structure of the atom, and the reason why certain elements are
radioactive and why certain elements are not. Also, by discovering two
elements, radium and polonium, she provided scientists with radioactive
materials to work with.

(Theory and basics of radioactivity, information taken from:


http://weather.nmsu.edu/Teaching_Material/soil698/Student_Material/biologic
aloxidizer/Theory.html)

An atom consists of a positively charged nucleus around which there are


orbits containing the negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is composed
of protons (positive particles) and neutrons (without charge). Atoms of an
element with a different number of neutrons but the same number of protons
will have the same atomic number but a different mass number (weight), and
are known as isotopes. Of course, isotopes can be stable or radioactive. The
term isotope is used in this report to refer to the radioactive type. The
isotopes are distinguished through the mass number written as superscript
with the symbol of the element; e.g., 12C and 14C, and 32P and 31P. Although
isotopes can be naturally found in very small quantities, the major
contribution is related to radioisotopes artificially created in atomic reactors.

The electrons are arranged in a series of orbits, and they balance the positive
charge of the nucleus. If each electron moves in its respective orbit, no
energy is released; however, if any force changes the order of an electron, a
quantum of energy is released. That electron may jump to inner orbits, losing
energy each time, until reaching a stable status. Thus, radioactive atoms may
decay into different more stable atoms. One or more types of energy are
released in this way, depending on the kind of particle given off. Alpha, beta,
or gamma radiation may be released; each has specific characteristics and
carries a different amount of energy from decaying atoms. Alpha rays have
the lower penetrating power; beta rays have an intermediate penetrating
capability; gamma rays are similar to the light and x-rays but have the higher
penetrating power, and, therefore, they are the most dangerous of the three
types of radiation for living tissues. As the isotopes decay to more stable
atoms, the amount present also decreases. Thus, the time required for an
isotope to lose half of its radioactivity is known as the half-life.