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Chapter 17: Radioactivity and Nuclear Chemistry

Problems: 1-20, 24-30, 32-46, 49-70, 74-88, 99-101

17.2 THE DISCOVERY OF RADIOACTIVITY


In 1896, a French physicist named Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium-containing crystals
emitted rays that could expose and fog photographic plates.
He found that these rays originated from changes within the atomic nuclei of the U atoms.
He proposed that the uranium atoms were unstable.
They emitted particles and/or energy to become more stable.
These emissions he called uranic rays.
One of the first women in France to do graduate work, Marie
Sklodowska Curie carried out her doctoral work to determine if
other substances emitted uranic rays.
She discovered two elements, which she later named
polonium (after her native Poland) and radium, which emitted
high levels of radioactivity.
Maric Curie changed the name of uranic rays to
radioactivity (or radioactive decay).
She shared the Nobel prize in physics with Becquerel
and her husband, Pierre Curie, for discovering
radioactivity.

Except for 11H , every atom has protons and neutrons in its nucleus.
Elements may exist as different isotopes.
e.g. the three isotopes of hydrogen are 11H (hydrogen), 21H
(deuterium), and 31H (tritium), which differ only in the number
of neutrons (indicated by the mass number atomic number)
Some isotopes are stable (e.g. 11H and 21H ).
Some isotopes are unstable and radioactive (e.g. 31H ).

The unstable, radioactive isotopes are called radionuclides.


Atomic Notation (or Nuclear Symbol):
shorthand for keeping track of protons and neutrons in the nucleus
# of protons + # of neutrons = mass number = A
# of protons = atomic number = Z

Atomic notation of common particles:


CHEM 121 Chapter 17

electron:

E=element symbol
e

0
1

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proton: 11p +

neutron: 01n

17.3 TYPES OF RADIOACTIVITY: ALPHA, BETA, AND GAMMA DECAY


alpha () particle: a helium nucleus ( 42 or 42He ) without electrons positively charged
largest particle emitted by radioactive nuclei, has the highest charge
beta () particle: a beta particle ( 10 or

0
1

e ) is an electron emitted from an atomic nucleus

positron: the antiparticle of an electron/beta particle,

0
1

or 01 e

The same size as an electron but with a positive charge


gamma () rays: high-energy rays (like X-rays)
The Electromagnetic Spectrum shows the different forms of electromagnetic radiation, with
cosmic and gamma rays having the highest frequency and the highest energy, making them
potentially the most dangerous to humans

Different Types of Radioactivity


Alpha () emission: a helium nucleus, 42 or
238
92U

238
92

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24

4
2He ,

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is emitted

234
90Th

234
90

Th +

4
2

0
1

Beta () emission: a beta particle (or electron),

234
90Th

0
-1

or

0
0

e , is emitted

234
91Pa

Gamma () emission: high-energy rays (like X-rays),


99m
43Tc

0
1

, are emitted

0
0

99
43Tc

Positron emission: a positron (the antiparticle of an electron),


39 K
19

0e
1

0
1

or 01 e , is emitted

39 Ar
18

WRITING NUCLEAR EQUATIONS


nuclide: a specific atom with a given number of protons and neutrons
We use the term parent-daughter nuclides to describe a parent nuclide decaying to produce a
daughter nuclide.
Balancing Nuclear Equations
Differ from general chemical equations in that mass numbers (protons + neutrons) and
atomic numbers are balanced, not the elements (or atoms) present.
parent
238
92U

For example:


4
2

daughter

234
90Th

where the mass numbers are equal to 238,


and the atomic numbers are equal to 92.

Ex. 1: Complete the following nuclear equations by identifying the unknown:

a.

20
8O

b.

26
12Mg

c.

9
4Be

20
9F

1 +
1p

+
+

+ ______

24

4
2

12
6C

+ ______
+ ______

Ex. 2: Write complete nuclear equations for the following processes:


a.

Iron-59 decays by beta emission.

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17.5

b.

Ra-226 decays by alpha emission.

c.

Mn-50 decays by positron emission.

d.

Cs-118 is produced when a radionuclide decays by beta emission.

NATURAL RADIOACTIVITY AND HALF-LIFE

When a radioactive sample decays, it emits particles and/or energy and continues to decay.
When Becquerel studied radioactivity, he learned that unlike chemical reactions, the rate of the
radioactive decay cannot be changed by changing temperature, pressure, or any other factors.
Thus, a radioactive sample will always continue to decay.
The amount of radiation given off is called the activity of the sample and can be measured
using a Geiger counter.
This instrument, developed by Hans Geiger, measures emissions from a radioactive
sample as clicks.
When more of the radioactive sample is present, the activity is higher.
As the sample decays, less of the radioactive sample remains, so the activity
decreases.

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Half-Life (t1/2): the amount of


time required for the amount or
activity of a radioactive sample
to decrease by half
Note with each half-life
passing, only half of the
previous amount of sample
is left.

Example: Rn-222, a radioactive isotope, is one of the resulting daughter products in the U-238
decay series. The daughter product when Rn-222 decays is Po-218.
a. If 96.0 mg of Rn-222 (t1/2=4 days) is inhaled but not exhaled or otherwise eliminated,
what mass of it remains in the lungs after 12 days.
222 Rn
86

24

218 Po
84

b. Po-218 decays to form lead-214. If 84.0 mg of Po-218 (t1/2=3.1 minutes) formed in the
lungs from the decay of Rn-222, what mass of it remains in the lungs after 9.3 minutes?
218 Po
84

24

214 Pb
82

c. Lead-214 undergoes beta decay to form Bi-214. If 10.2 mg of lead-214 (t1/2=27 minutes)
formed in the lungs from the decay of Po-218, what mass remains after 54 minutes?
214 Pb
82

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0 -1e

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214 Bi
83

17.10 THE EFFECTS OF RADIATION ON LIFE


Penetrating Effects of Radiation
Particles with the same energy but different masses can penetrate to different degrees.
Alpha particles are massive with a high charge. They collide with other molecules and
quickly lose energy. They cannot penetrate a few sheets of paper or outer cells of skin
But exposure to alpha particles can cause severe burns.
Beta particles penetrate more but can be stopped with a sheet of aluminum or plastic.
Gamma and X-rays can penetrate even more but are stopped with a thick lead shield.
can penetrate much deeper and are very dangerous to living organisms
Neutrons can penetrate even more but can be stopped by a thick wall of concrete.

ACUTE RADIATION DAMAGE AND GENETIC DEFECTS:


Chemical Effects of Radiation: Why is radiation so dangerous?
Acute radiation damage results from exposure to large amounts of radiation in a short period
of time, which kills a large numbers of cells. Weakened immune systems.
High-energy or ionizing
radiation can take electrons
from stable compounds in
living organisms, leaving
highly reactive unpaired
electrons called radicals or
free radicals.
These free radicals are so
reactive they cause
reactions between
otherwise stable materials
in the cells of living
organisms.
If these reactions involve
genetic materials (e.g.
genes and chromosomes),
the changes could lead to
genetic mutations, cancer,
or other devastating
consequences.
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Health Hazards Associated with Radon


Note: Because radon is a Noble gas with a long half-life, it is often inhaled and exhaled before it
decays. However, two of its daughter nuclides, Po-218 and Po-214, are solids with much
shorter half-lives (typically minutes). When radon decays in the lungs, these solid isotopes
remain in the lungs tissue and continually emit particles, damaging tissue and cells, and
possibly even leading to cancer.
17.11 RADIOACTIVITY IN MEDICINE
Radioactive nuclei (called "radiotracers") are used most commonly in medicine for diagnosis
To minimize risk to patients, radiotracers should have the following characteristics:
1. They have short half-lives and a daughter product that is non-toxic and non-radioactive.
They decay and emit radiation while the diagnosis is being done then decay so quickly
that very little radiation is given off after the diagnosis
2. They emit penetrating gamma rays that can be detected by the detectors outside the body.
3. Their chemical properties should cause them to concentrate in diseased areas (make a
hot spot) or causing the diseased areas to reject it (make a cold spot).
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a technique used to study brain disorders. A patient is
given glucose (C6H12O6) containing carbon-11, a positron emitter. The brain is then scanned to
detect positron emission, and differences in glucose uptake and metabolism can be traced.

Sodium-24 (a -emitter) injected into the bloodstream can be monitored to trace the flow of blood
and detect possible constrictions or obstructions.
Isotopes of technetium are valuable as diagnostic tools. Patients drink or are injected with
solution containing Tc-99m, which helps doctors imaging of organs like the heart, liver, or lungs.
Some radioactive isotopes are used in cancer therapy
Cobalt-60 is often used
rays from this source are focused at small areas where cancer is suspected
Thyroid cancer patients drink a solution of NaI containing radioactive iodide ions (131I or
123
I). The iodine moves preferentially through the thyroid gland, where the radiation can
(depending on the dosage) either image or destroy overactive thyroid cells.
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17.6 RADIOCARBON DATING: USING RADIOACTIVITY TO MEASURE THE AGE OF


FOSSILS AND OTHER ARTIFACTS
Radiocarbon Dating; Age of Organic Material
Radioactive samples always decay at a CONSTANT rate (not affected by temperature, etc.)
Knowing the half-life for a given radioactive isotope and knowing the current relative
abundance for that isotope we can estimate the age of various objects.
Carbon-14 is used to date organic materials (once living organisms)
Carbon-14 is produced by neutron capture in the upper atmosphere:
14
7N

1
0n

14
6C

1
1H

Assuming the ratio of carbon-14 and carbon-12 in the atmosphere has been constant for
about 50,000 years.
Because living plants and animals have a constant intake of carbon compounds, they able
maintain a ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 that is identical with the atmosphere.
Once the organism dies, it no longer ingests carbon compounds, and the carbon-14
content decreases because of its radioactive decay:
14
6C

14
7N

0
-1

t1/2 = 5730 years

Radiocarbon dating cannot be used to date objects older than 50,000 years because the
radioactivity is too low to be measured accurately.
Used to date charcoal found at Stonehenge, linen wrapped around the Dead Sea Scrolls,
and other historical objects, etc.

Uranium-Lead Dating; Age of Rocks


The half-life for uranium-238 to decay to lead-206 is 4.5109 years:
238
92U

206
82 Pb

4
2

0
-1e

By analyzing rocks to determine the ratio of U-238 to Pb-206 present, one can determine the
"age" of the rocksi.e. the amount of time since the rock solidified.
For example, assuming the rock originally has no Pb-206 present, the Pb-206 could only
have come from the U-238 decay, and equal amounts of both means half the U-238 has
decayed to Pb-206.
The rock is 4.5 x 109 years old (equal to U-238's half life).
Used to estimate age of Earth and lunar rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions
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OTHER APPLICATIONS OF RADIOACTIVITY


Agricultural Applications:
Controlling insects without using pesticides
Cobalt-60 emits gamma rays that sterilize male insects and reduce insect population.
Gamma irradiation of processed food also destroys microorganisms.
Cobalt-60 irradiation destroys parasites in pork (trichinosis) and chicken (salmonella).
Gamma irradiation also increases shelf life without using preservatives.
The photo below shows irradiated strawberries that do not become moldy after 25 days.

INDUCED NUCLEAR REACTIONS


Artificial Radioactivity
Nuclei can also be induced to decay as a result of bombardment by high energy particles (e.g.
neutrons, electrons, and other nuclei)
These kinds of nuclear changes are called nuclear transmutation.
This means we can cause nuclear reactions to occur!

NUCLEAR ENERGY
Nuclear Binding Energy
energy required to break up a nucleus into its component nucleons
The most stable nuclei have mass numbers of about 40-80
Heavier nuclei (those with mass numbers > 80) can split into smaller, more stable nuclei:
nuclear fission
Smaller nuclei (those with mass numbers < 40) combine with other smaller nuclei to form
more stable nuclei: nuclear fusion
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17.7 THE DISOVERY OF FISSION AND THE ATOMIC BOMB


NUCLEAR FISSION: A heavy nucleus (mass number > 200) divides to form smaller, more
stable nuclei, resulting in the release of large amounts of energy
The Fission Process
Many isotopes of heavy elements undergo fission if bombarded by high-energy neutrons.
239
Two naturally occuring isotopes, 235
92U and 94Pu , have practical applications.
They undergo fission when hit with even low-energy, room temperature neutrons.
Consider the following:

235
92U

1
0n

90
38Sr

143
54 Xe

+ 3 01n

Note that additional neutrons are also produced


The neutrons generated can induce fission in other nuclei, which turn produces more
neutrons, and so on.
nuclear chain reaction: self-sustaining sequence of nuclear reactions
Nuclear chain reaction's also require a critical mass, the minimum amount of fissionable
material needed to generate a self-sustaining chain reaction.
i.e., there must be enough 235
92U present, so the neutrons produced can collide with
them to cause more fission reactions

Fission Energy
The energy released is 8.4107 kJ/g of
(3104 kg) of TNT!
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235
92U ,

about equal to the explosion of 30 metric tons

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17.8 NUCLEAR POWER: USING FISSION TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY


Fission reactions are now used more commonly in
nuclear reactors.
Nuclear Reactors
Entire reactor is contained in a concrete
building to shield personnel and nearby
residents from radiation.
Fuel rods alternate with control rods in a
containment chamber.
fuel rods: UO2 pellets in a zirconium alloy
tube, where the uranium is "enriched" to
contain 3% U-235, the fissionable material.
Only about 0.7% of naturally occurring
uranium is U-235 while 99.3% is U-238 sample must be "enriched" to increase the
amount of U-235.
control rods: cadmium or boron rods that capture neutrons and serve to control the
number of neutrons, and thus, the nuclear fission reactions.

Water is passed through the reactor to absorb the heat given off by fission and to moderate (or
slow down) the neutrons produced.
The heated water heats more water to steam, which drives a turbogenerator that produces
electrical energy.
Cooling water (usually a river) is also used to cool the steam for reuse.
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Advantage of Nuclear Reactors:


Produce energy without producing Greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming
Disadvantage of Nuclear Reactors: Nuclear Waste
Each year, on average, one-fourth of the intensely radioactive fuel rods used in nuclear
reactors must be replaced.
In 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a timetable for choosing and preparing
sites for underground disposal of radioactive materials.
Potential problems:
It's estimated that 20 half-lives are required for the radioactivity to reach acceptable levels
for biological exposure.
Since Sr-90's half-life is 28.8 years, the wastes must be stored for at least 600 years.
If Pu-239 is being stored, the storage must last much longer since Pu-239 's half-life is
24,000 years.
There must be assurances that the containers do not crack, allowing radioactivity to find its
way into underground water supplies.

NUCLEAR FUSION: Lighter nuclei combine to form larger, more stable nuclei
The energy available from such fusion
reactions is considerably greater than
3 H 4 He +
2H
+
that given off by fission reactions.
1
1
2
deuterium
tritium
This is the type of reaction that provides
the Sun its energy.

1
0n

Advantages of Nuclear Fusion:


Produces more energy per gram of
materials
Light isotopes needed for fusion
reactions are more abundant than
heavy isotopes needed for fission
reactions.
Fusion products are not radioactive.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Fusion:


High energies are required to overcome repulsion between nuclei.
For example, the fusion reaction show above requires temperatures around 40 million
Kelvin.
Such high temperatures have been achieved by using an atomic bomb to initiate the
fusion process, but this approach can't be used for controlled power generation.
In addition, no known structural material can withstand the enormous temperatures
necessary for fusion on the scale needed for power generation.
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