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Transmutation and Nuclear fission

Defi ne the components of the nucleus (protons and neutrons) as nucleons and
contrast their properties

Ordinary matter consists of atoms, and at the centre of each atom is a compact nucleus
consisting of protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are composed of quarks.
Mass (u)



Neutro 1.00866
Unstable outside of the
Note: u = Up quark, d = down quark


Discuss the importance of conservation laws to Chadwicks discovery of the neutron

Conservation laws

Conservation of momentum: Whenever two or more particles undergo an elastic or

inelastic collision in a closed system, the sum of all momentum in the system must remain
Conservation of energy: The total energy in a system can be neither created nor
destroyed, but can be transformed

Chadwicks experiments
Rutherfords discovery of the proton and neutron

1919 Rutherford discovered the proton

Proton did not seem to be the only particle, because the atomic number was less than the
atomic mass
1920 Rutherford proposed the existence of neutrons to explain this unaccounted mass No
experimental evidence to support it yet

Chadwicks experiments to prove the neutron

1932 Chadwick observed Curies experiments with radiation

Curie found that an unknown radiation from a Beryllium isotope could knock protons from wax

Chadwick thought this unknown radiation was neutrons

Chadwick replicated this experiment, and used cloud chambers and Geiger counters to
determine the maximum velocity of the expelled protons
Using the conservation of momentum (P initial = P final), he could determine the mass of the
neutrally charged neutron Determined mass was the same as a proton
Using conservation of energy, he examined the disintegration of deuteron (proton and
neutron) by the photoelectric effect Determined mass of neutron was 1.0085u

Defi ne the term transmutation

Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or isotope into another one
Can occur through two ways:
o Nuclear reactions: A larger nucleus captures a smaller nucleus to produce a new
element or isotope
o Radioactive decay: The nucleus is unstable, and emits a particle (alpha, beta), so that it
can enter a more stable state New chemical element or isotope is created

Describe nuclear transmutations due to natural radioactivity

Nuclear stability is determined by ratio and number of neutrons to protons

Protons have electrostatic repulsion (+ve charge)
Neutrons are unstable outside of the nucleus
Generally, for smaller elements, equal numbers of protons and neutrons equate to a more
stable nucleus
Unstable nucleus radioactively decay to eject an alpha (He 2+) particles or beta particle (high
energy electron or a positron)
o Beta decay occurs when a neutron changes into a proton, and a high energy electron
or a positron is emitted (as well as a neutrino)

Describe Fermis initial experimental observation of nuclear fi ssion

Fermi carried out neutron bombardment on heavy nuclei to investigate their properties
He attempted to make uranium undergo beta decay to produce transuranic elements
(increases atomic number)
Used slow instead of fast electrons, since they had a greater chance of being captured by
When bombarding nuclei with neutrons, it produced 4 separate products with differing halflives, instead of a single product
This process was called nuclear fission

Discuss Paulis suggestion of the existence of neutrino and relate it to the need to
account for the energy distribution of electrons emitted in beta decay

It was through beta decay; the electron would carry the mass difference in the form of kinetic
It turned out that the electrons KE, was less than the expected
The electrons didnt have the same KE, instead it was a distribution

Neutrino was postulated in 1930 by Pauli

Neutrino was able to account for the momentum and energy which wasnt account for by the

Evaluate the relative contributions of electrostatic and gravitational forces between

Calculation of electrostatic repulsive force, and gravitational attractive force
Calculate the electrostatic force between two protons in a Helium nucleus separated by 10E(15)m

F = kq1q2/d2
o q(electron) = 1.602E(-19)C
o k = 9E9 Nm2C-2
o F = 231N repulsive between two protons

Calculate the gravitational force between two protons

o m(proton) = 1.673E(-27)kg
o G = 6.67E(-11) Nm2kg-2
o F = 1.8E(-34)N attractive

Evaluation of calculation

Gravitational attractive force is far smaller than electrostatic repulsive force

Therefore, gravitational attractive force is negligible compared to the electrostatic repulsive

Account for the need for the strong nuclear force and describe its properties
The need for a strong nuclear force

Gravitational attractive force is far too small to oppose the electrostatic repulsive force
Thus there must be a strong nuclear force binding the protons together, to overcome the
electrostatic force
It glues all nucleons

Properties of mesons

Exchanged between nucleons (protons and neutrons Form the nucleus) to provide the
strong nuclear force
Attracts over short distances (10E(-15)m)
Becomes repulsive when distance exceed diameter of nucleon
Acts equally as strong between protons and neutrons
Very strong 100x the electrostatic repulsive force

Explain the concept of a mass defect using Einsteins equivalence between mass and
Mass defect explained

1905 Einstein proposed that mass and energy were equivalent (E=mc 2)
Using this, 1u = 931.5MeV

Carbon-12 has mass 12u 6 protons and 6 neutrons

However, each proton and neutron has a mass slightly larger than 1u, ignoring electron mass
Hence the mass of individual neutrons and protons is greater than the mass of the nucleus
This missing mass when considering the whole nucleus, is called mass defect, and
represents binding energy of the nucleus
This mass defect exists, because when nucleons come together, they sacrifice some
of their mass towards energy, which is used to provide the strong nuclear force
Mass defect = Mass of nucleons Mass of nucleus
Binding energy = E = mc2 = (Mass defect) x c2 = MeV | 1u = 931.5MeV

Significance of mass defect for different elements

Fusion of small nuclei (< Iron)

o Mass defect is the binding energy derived from mass sacrificed by the nucleons
o The average binding energy for each nucleon increases from hydrogen to iron
o The fusion of elements below iron results in the products having mass defect, which
results in energy being released
Fission of larger nuclei (> Iron)
o The average binding energy for each nucleon decreases from uranium to iron
o The fission of elements above iron results in the products having mass defect, which
results in energy being released
Iron has the most stable nuclei

Describe Fermis demonstration of controlled nuclear chain reaction in 1942

In fission initiates the react, causing energy to be released as well as more neutrons
The produced neutrons would cause further reactions Known as a chain reaction
Reaction was controlled by inserting neutron absorbing materials into the uranium
The reactor was called an atomic pile, which consisted of graphite and uranium
Cadmium rods were used in Fermis experiments

Compare requirements for controlled and uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions

A nuclear chain reaction occurs when one nuclear reaction causes an average of one
or more nuclear reactions, thus leading to a self-propagating number of these

The addition of a neutron to Uranium-235 leads to nucleus instability, causing it to break into
various products, some of which are neutrons which can cause further reactions