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Nuclear Physics

PHY 3230

K Zarb Adami

Course Aims

To study the general properties of nuclei

To examine the characteristics of the nuclear force

To introduce the principal models of the nucleus

To discuss the spontaneous decay of nuclei

To study nuclear reactions, in particular fission and fusion

To develop problem solving skills in the above areas

Course Layout

16 Lectures required to cover the syllabus

14 lectures on Theoretical Background of Nuclear Physics

2 lectures on Applications of Nuclear Physics

2 tutorials to cover the syllabus

2 tutorials to work out past papers

1 Assignment contributes 30% towards the final mark

1 2-hour exam contributes 70% towards the final mark

Motivation for Course

Nuclear processes play a fundamental role in the physical


Nuclear processes are also involved in many practical

applications such as

in the origin of the Universe

in the creation of the chemical elements
in the energy sources of stars
in the basic constituents of matter

the uses of radioactivity in research, health and industry

the generation of power
various tools in the study of materials (Mossbauer, NMR,
neutron diffraction)

Plus the best motive of all - curiosity


General properties of nuclei (Lecs. 1-3)

Nuclear forces (Lecs. 4-5)

Angular momentum, parity & moments

Summary of characteristics
The deuteron
Isospin (aka Isotopic or Isobaric spin)
Exchange forces

Nuclear models (Lecs. 6-7)

Shell model
Predictions of the Shell model
Collective model
Rotational states of deformed nuclei
Vibrational states

Spontaneous decay of nuclei (Lecs 8-9)

Alpha particle decay
Beta decay
Gamma decay

Syllabus Continued

Nuclear reactions (Lecs. 10-11)

Fission, fusion and the bomb (Lecs. 12-14)

Basic types of reaction

Compound nucleus
Direct reactions

Spontaneous and induced fission

Energy released
Chain reaction and the fission reactor
Fusion process
The fusion reactor

Exotic Applications of Nuclear Physics (Lecs. 14-16)

Nuclear Astrophysics
Radiation interacting with matter
Radiation detectors
MRI and nuclear medicine

Course Review

Content in pictures
Solution of problems
Style of the examination

Notes and Resources for the Course

Course is based almost entirely on the course given in

Sheffield with special permission from Prof. Neil Spooner

Course is also based on MIT OpenCourseware

Books required for the course are:

Sheffield web-pages from which notes are derived:
MIT web-pages from which notes are derived:

Detection of Radioactivity

Filled with argon gas

Thin wire at +400V

Incoming high energy particle ionises gas

Electron attracted to wire at high speed

Causes other electrons to be released in avalanche

Results in pulse which is amplified and counted

Very sensitive detector

Practical Question

How radioactive is your body?

How many gamma-rays do you emit per sec?

Most radioactive isotope in the body is 40K


There is of the order of 40 g of potassium in an adult

who weighs 70 kg, and 0.04g consists of the 40K


K half-life 1.28 x 109 years

Why do Nuclear Physics?

What is the origin of the Universe?

What is the origin of nuclei - H, He, Li...Fe...U, Th?

stars, supernova, the Big Bang

the creation of chemical elements

production of energy in stars and on Earth

nuclear astrophysics

We are all made from the products of exploding stars

the study of nuclear cross sections

Why do Nuclear Physics?

Building matter and matter falling apart

Building with quarks and leptons

neutrons, protons, deuterons...

How many elements, why?

stars, neutrino mass and the cosmos

Matter decays - splitting the atom...

alpha, beta, gamma
fission particles

Nuclear Processes

Nuclear fission (fusion?) for generation of power

a hot topic now - no CO2 emissions - but is it safe?

Radioactivity in medicine, industry and research

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (cancer),
Security (e.g. mine detection),
Fundamental studies such as neutrino properties (double
beta decay)...

Medical Applications
Cancer therapy using radiation

Historic use to kill cells - e.g. radium

Modern use with ion beams (e.g. GSI)

Medical imaging
MRI (Nuclear magnetic imaging)
Positron Emission Tomography
X-ray imaging

Imaging with -rays

Useful diagnostics gained from imaging internallygenerated -rays

Use 99Tc radioactive with 6 hour half-life

Added to material with known preferential take-up, e.g.

iodine in thyroid
Emits 140 keV -ray in decay

Imaged with single crystal scintillatorand PMTs

But if 99Tc has such a short half-life, where does it

come from?

By radioactive "-decay from 99Mo cow with a 66 hour

half-life: easily transportable

Obtained by neutron activation of 98Mo

But what is -decay?

Other applications

The environment
Carbon dating - 12C/14C ratio
Argon gas dating
Rb/Sr dating of rocks


Archaeology (dating by isotope ratios)

Use of radioactivity to trace fluids in organs


Security and industry

Oil well logging
Detection of bomb material