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Nuclear Chemistry

Nuclear Chemistry

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Nuclear Chemistry

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  1. Nuclear Chemistry 3221.3.8, 3221.3.9

  2. Standard expectations • SPI 3221.3.8 Describe radioactive decay through a balanced nuclear equation and through an analysis of the half-life concept. • SPI 3221.3.9 Compare and contrast nuclear fission and fusion.

  3. Artificial Transmutations • Artificial radioactive nuclides: radioactive nuclides not found naturally on Earth • Artificial transmutations: bombardment of nuclei with charged and uncharged particles • Which particles penetrate the nucleus more easily? Why?

  4. Radioactivity Because nuclei are positively charged, they generally repulse each other. Due to this repulsion, great quantities of energy are required to bombard nuclei with these particles • Magnetic or electrical field of a particle acclerator

  5. Artificial Radioactive Nuclides • Radioactive isotopes of all the natural elements have been produced by artificial transmutation • Technetium and Promethium have filled in gaps on the periodic table • Transuranium elements: elements with more than 92 protons in their nuclei • ALL of these elements are radioactive

  6. Nuclear Radiation • Alpha particles: can travel only a few centimeters in air and have a low penetrating ability due to their large mass and charge • Beta particles: can travel a few meters in air • Electrons; travel at the speed of light • 100x the penetrating ability of alpha particles • Gamma rays: greatest penetrating ability

  7. Penetrating ability of radiation

  8. Radiation Exposure • Nuclear radiation can transfer the energy from nuclear decay to the electrons of atoms or molecules and cause ionization, which can damage living tissue • Roentgen (R): unit used to measure nuclear radiation exposure; it is equal to the amount of gamma and X-ray radiation that produces 2 x 109 ion pairs when it passes through 1 cm3 of dry air • rem: (roentgen equivalent, man) unit used to measure the dose of any type of ionizing radiation that factors in the effect that the radiation has on human tissue

  9. Long-term radiation exposure • Can cause DNA mutations that result in cancer and other genetic defects • DNA can be mutated directly (by interaction with radiation) or indirectly (by interaction with previously ionized molecules) • Everyone is exposed to very low levels of radiation via the environment

  10. Radiation Detection • Film badges: use exposure of film to measure the approximate radiation exposure of people working with radiation • Geiger-Mϋller counters: instruments that detect radiation by counting electric pulses carried by gas ionized by the radiation • Used to detect beta particles, X rays, and gamma radiation • Scintillation counters: instruments that convert scintillating light to an electric signal for detecting radiation

  11. Applications of Nuclear Radiation • Radioactive dating • Process by which the approximate age of an object is determined based on the amount of certain radioactive nuclides present • Based on the fact that radioactive substances decay with known half-lives • Age is estimated by measuring either accumulation of a daughter nuclide or the disappearance of the parent nuclide • Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5715 years and is used to estimate the age of organic materials up to about 50 000 years old

  12. More Uses… • Medicine • Radioactive tracers: radioactive atoms that are incorporated into substances so that movement of the substances can be followed by radiation detectors • Used to diagnose cancer and other diseases

  13. More Uses • Agriculture • Used in fertilizers to determine the effectiveness of the fertilizer • The amount of tracer absorbed by the plant indicates the amount of fertilizer absorbed • Used to increase the shelf-life of food • Cobalt-60: used to kill bacteria and insects that spoil and infest food

  14. Nuclear Fission • The nucleus of a very heavy atom, such as uranium, is split into two or more lighter nuclei • The products of the fission include the nuclei as well as the nucleons formed from the fragments’ radioactive decay • Primary process powering nuclear reactors, including submarines and aircraft carriers

  15. Nuclear Fusion • Very high temperatures and pressures are used to combine light atoms, such as hydrogen, to make heavier atoms such as helium • Primary process that fuels our sun and the stars • Creating and maintaining a fusion reaction is more complex and expensive than performing fission

  16. Nuclear waste • Produced by both fusion and fission, but fission produces much more nuclear waste • Containment: shielding environment • Every radioactive substance has a half-life, which is the amount of time needed for half of the substance to decay (few months to thousands of years) • On-site and off-site • Storage • Nuclear reactor waste is often stored temporarily in storage pools or casks (concrete or steel) until moved to permanent underground storage facilities

  17. Disposal of Nuclear Waste • Disposal is done with the intention of never retrieving the materials • Currently, there are 131 disposal sites in 39 states • U.S. Department of Energy is developing a new site near Las Vegas, Nevada, called Yucca Mountain, for the permanent disposal of much of this waste • Planned date: 2017 • Controversial: both alternative plans and complete opposition

  18. Nuclear Fission • A very heavy nucleus splits into more stable nuclei of intermediate mass • Releases ENORMOUS amounts of energy • Can occur spontaneously or when nuclei are bombarded by particles • The mass of the products is less than the mass of the reactants Why?? • The missing mass is converted to energy

  19. Nuclear chain reaction • Chain reaction: a reaction in which the material that starts a reaction is also one of the products and can start another reaction

  20. Nuclear fission • Critical mass: the minimum amount of nuclide that provides the number of neutrons needed to sustain a chain reaction • Nuclear reactors: use controlled-fission chain reactions to produce energy and radioactive nuclides

  21. Nuclear Power Plants • Convert the heat produced by nuclear fission into electrical energy • Five main components • Shielding: radiation-absorbing material that is used to decrease the emission of radiation, especially gamma rays, from nuclear reactors • Fuel: fossil fuels, e.g. Uranium-235 • Control rods: neutron-absorbing rods that help control the reaction by limiting the number of free neutrons • Moderator: used to slow down fast neutrons produced by fission for a more efficient nuclear reaction • Coolant: absorbs the heat given off by the reaction

  22. Nuclear Power Plant

  23. Nuclear Fusion • Low-mass nuclei combine to form a heavier, more stable nucleus • Releases more energy per gram of fuel than nuclear fission MORE efficient!!! • For fusion to be a practical energy source, more energy needs to be generated by the reaction than is put into the reaction

  24. Fusion • If fusion reactions can be controlled, they could be used for energy generation • Plasma: extremely hot mixture of positive nuclei and electrons • No known material that can withstand the initial temperatures, about 108 K, required to induce fusion • Scientists use strong magnetic fields to suspend the charged plasma inside a container but away from the walls

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