Chapter 20 (loosely)
of Brady & Senese 5th
Dr. C. Yau
What do you need to know?
You are responsible only for the topics on
nuclear reactions I present here.
Review: The nuclear symbol
Atomic number (also, nuclear charge)
= # protons
(C has charge of +6 in nucleus, due to 6 protons)
In nuclear chemistry, this number does not always give
us # protons, but it does give us the nuclear charge.
(Not all nuclear particles have protons.)
= # protons + # neutrons
(due to 6 p and 8 n)
Give the number of p and n for each of the following:
1 2 3
1 1 1H H H
1p 1 p 1 p
0 n 1 n 2 n
protium deuterium tritium*
99.985% 0.015% zero%
These are isotopes of hydrogen.
What exactly are isotopes?
-Atoms of the same element with different masses.
-Atoms with the same #p but different # n
*Tritium is the only one that is radioactive.
D2O = heavy water (MW=20 amu instead of 18 amu)
Radioactivity is the spontaneous disintegration of
a nucleus accompanied by an emission of rays.
Radioisotopes are the isotopes that are
radioactive. Note that not all isotopes are
radioactive. (e.g. Tritium is, but not protium or
Alpha Decay (α-decay) is the disintegration of a
nucleus accompanied by an emission of α
Beta Decay (β-decay) is the disintegration of a
nucleus accompanied by an emission of β
Gamma Decay (γ-decay) is emission of γ-rays.
γ-rays are high energy rays (no particles
Why alpha, beta, gamma?
That’s Greek for A, B, C.
It turns out that the α particle is the nucleus of
the He atom:
α particle =
β particle is the electron =
neutron has the symbol =
proton has the symbol =
positron is a "positive electron" = ?
γ is not a particle but is given the symbol
β-decay involves an emission of an electron from
Doesn’t that strike you as being a bit odd???
Which nuclear particles are in the nucleus?
How can the nucleus eject an ELECTRON?
Actually a neutron breaks up into p+
proton stays in the nucleus and the e-
Write the equation for what is happening to the n.
1 1 0
0 1 -1n p + e→ Check to see it's balanced.
What is the significance of a proton as a product?
The element is changing into a different element!
Uranium-238 undergoes α-decay. Write the nuclear
equation for its decay.
"Uranium-238" means the isotope of uranium with a mass
number of 238. We do not need to specify the atomic
number as we can easily find it on the periodic table.
The product of U-238 decay undergoes β-decay. Write the
nuclear equation for it.
Note that U changed into another element!
This is not possible in chemical reactions!
U-238 decay series involve the disintegration of U-
238 and its subsequent products until we end up
with a nonradioactive product (Pb-206).
Fig. 20.7 p. 828
If we begin with polonium-210 and ended with lead-206,
what nuclear particle is emitted during the decay?
The U-238 decay series involve 14 steps. Somewhere
along the series there is a step that involves emission of
alpha rays and it produces radioactive radon-222. Write
the nuclear equation.
What do you know about radon? Where have you heard about it?
U-238 decay series produces many other radioactive products.
Why do we single out Rn to talk about?
Why do some nuclei decay and not
Why are some α-emitters and some
Red line shows ratio of #n / #p = 1
(#n = #p)
As #p increases, positive charge in
nucleus is getting too large, and #n
increases to keep them apart.
Shaded area shows the Band of
Elements above the band are β-
emitters which decr #n and incr #p.
Elements below the band are α-
emitters which decr # p.
# protons Fig. 20.8 p.831
Review of Half-life and Decay Rate
• Radioactive decay is 1st
• For 1st
• Note that the half-life is not affected by the initial
concentration of the reactant.
• What does half-life (t½
• It is the amount of time it takes for the sample to decrease
by ½ (by mass or by number of particles).
• Example 5: U-238 has a half-life of 4.5x109
yr. Will it be all
gone after two half-lives? Before you do any calculations,
first check to see whether it can be done easily.
Review of Half-life and Decay Rate (cont’d.)
• Example 6: P-32 has a half-life of 14
days. Starting with 10.0 g of P-32, how
much is left after 42 days?
• Example 7: P-32 has a half-life of 14
days. Starting with 10.0 g of P-32, how
much is left after 45 days?
You can determine the half-life graphically by plotting
concentration vs. time.
What is the half-life of I-131?
What is its decay constant?
What is the unit of the constant?
There is another isotope of uranium of interest: U-235.
It is also radioactive but more important it is fissionable (or
Nuclear fission is splitting the nucleus into two large
particles by bombardment of a high energy particle (such
as a neutron).
Nuclear fusion is fusing together two small nuclei into a
Both are accompanied by an enormous amount of E!
235 1 94 1
92 0 36 0U + n Kr + ? + 3 n→
2 3 4
1 1 2H + H He + ?→
ΔE = - 1010
ΔE = - 108
U-235 does not always split into the same products.
However, the products are always radioactivity and given
the term “radioactive daughters”.
These radioactive products are in the fallout from a
Sr-90 has half-life of 28.1 yr. Rule of thumb: It takes 10
half-lives for a radioisotope to be considered "gone."
Note also the formation of 3 n. Why is this significant?
235 1 90 143 1
92 0 38 54 0U + n Sr + Xe + 3 n→
Nuclear fission is what we use in the nuclear reactor at the power
plants and in atomic bombs.
Not all isotopes are “fissile” (not fissionable). U-238 is radioactive
but not fissile.
In nature, only 0.7% of naturally occurring uranium is U-235. The
rest is U-238 which is not fissile.
Nuclear power plants only require about 3% U-235.
Atomic bombs require about 97.3% U-235.
To take 0.7% U-235 and convert to weapon-grade 97.3% U-235 we
make use of the different rate of effusion and applying Graham’s
Law: Heavier atoms effuse slower. Allowing the two isotopes to
effuse (a long process as the difference in mass is only 3 amu)
eventually we can separate U-235 from U-238. This process is called
What is the deal with plutonium?
Bombardment of U-238 with neutrons converts it to Np
(neptunium) which quickly decays to Pu-239.
Pu-238 is fissile. Pu-239 can be used for making bombs.
Reactor grade Pu can be easily converted into a nuclar
Half-life of Pu is 25,000 yrs. If there is a spill, how long
will it take for Pu to be totally gone?
This is why there is much concern with where and who
There is another reason for concern over the location of
Pu…It is HIGHLY toxic.
• It is an alpha emitter.
• It is estimated that 1 microgram in the lungs of a humna
is enough to induce lung cancer.
Another example is
Complete the equation:
• Nuclear fission is what takes place in the sun and the
stars. … and used in the H-bomb.
• Advantage over nuclear fission? H isotopes are much
easier to obtain than uranium, and much more
abundant (from water).
• Products have much shorter half-lives.
H-3 has t ½ = 12. 3 yrs compared to
U-235 has t ½ = 7.04x108
• Nuclear wastes of nuclear fusion also have much
• Disadvantage is the difficulty in harnessing it for use:
requires millions of degrees to initiate.
2 3 4
1 1 2H + H He + ?→
1 +14 H 2 e + ?→
What is meant by “cold fusion?”
• “Cold fusion” is to initiate fusion without
the millions of degrees of heat (only
possible in the sun).
• Some years ago, two scientists made a
dramatic announcement to say they have
accomplished “cold fusion.”
• What happened?
Where does all the nuclear energy come from?
Nuclear Binding Energy
If we want to make a helium atom, what do we
2 protons and 2 neutrons
2 x 1.0072764669 amu = 2.0145529338 amu
2 x 1.0086649156 amu = 2.0173298312 amu
Total = 4.0318827650 amu
He nucleus is actually 4.0015061792 amu
Where is the missing mass? "mass defect"
Mass Defect = Binding Energy
The missing mass is the mass that is
converted into energy:
E = m c2
This is the energy released when nuclear
particles combine, break and recombine.
c = speed of light = 3 x 108
m/s (very large #)
= 3 x 1016
(even larger #!)
Significance: a small mass is converted to a
very large amount of energy!
Anything good about nuclear reactions?
• Nuclear energy does not produce “greenhouse” gas
(CO2) or acid rain (SO2).
• We do not rely on the Middle East to supply us with
• Nuclear medicine:
PET scan: Positron Emission Tomography
(Nuclear medicine imaging to produce a 3-D image of
functional processes in the body)
It uses nucleotides of short half-lives, such as C-11
(20 mins); N-13 (10 mins); O-15 (2 mins). Why is a
short half-life desirable?
Write the nuclear eqn for C-11 emitting a positron.
Write the nuclear eqn for the positron meeting with an
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