Suggested languages for you:

Americas

Europe

|
|

# Nuclear Chemistry

## Want to get better grades?

• Flashcards
• Notes
• Explanations
• Study Planner
• Textbook solutions

Lerne mit deinen Freunden und bleibe auf dem richtigen Kurs mit deinen persönlichen Lernstatistiken

Nie wieder prokastinieren mit unseren Lernerinnerungen.

Up to this point in your chemistry journey, you have learned about chemical reactions and how different compounds undergo different types of reactions to form products. Now, it is time to dive into a new type of reaction, which are reactions that happen in the nucleus! Nuclear reactions are extremely important in nuclear chemistry!

• First, we will look at the definition of nuclear chemistry and the basics of nuclear reactions.
• Then, we will learn about nuclear equations and the types of nuclear decay seen in nuclear chemistry.
• After, we will look at some examples involving nuclear chemistry.
• Lastly, we will talk about some applications of nuclear chemistry.

## Nuclear Chemistry: definition

Let's start by looking at the definition of nuclear chemistry. Nuclear chemistry is the chemistry that deals with radioactivity, nuclear reactions and nuclear properties.

Nuclear chemistry is a sub-field of chemistry that studies the changes that happen in the nucleus of elements.

Nuclear reactions are reactions that involve an atom's nucleus. Since the nucleus is comprised of nucleons, which are protons and neutrons, we tend to ignore electrons as they are not a part of the nucleus.

When dealing with nuclear chemistry, the atom is referred to as the nuclide.

A nuclide is a particular instance of an atom of an atomic nucleus, for example, $$^{16}_{8}\text{O}$$, is a particular nucleus of oxygen.

Now, there are two ways to represent nuclides: atomic notation and mass notation. In atomic notation, the number on the top is the mass number, while the number on the bottom is the atomic number. In mass notation, the name of the element is followed by the mass number. For example, the atomic notation of an isotope of radium containing 140 neutrons is written as $$^{228}_{88}\text{Ra}$$, whereas its mass notation is radium-228,

• Mass number → number of protons plus the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
• Atomic number → proton number in the nucleus.

Isotopes are atoms of the same element containing the same number of protons, but varying numbers of neutrons in their nucleus. To learn more about radioisotopes, check out "Radioactive Isotopes"!

## History Of Nuclear Chemistry

Now, let's dive into the history of nuclear chemistry and learn about three different chemists that were important in the discovery of radioactivity.

First up, we have Wilhelm Röntgen, a German physicist. Röntgen was interested in understanding how a Crookes tube worked. The Crookes tube was a device created in 1870 by a British scientist named William Crookes. It consisted of a sealed glass cylinder, with no oxygen inside and two electrodes (an anode and a cathode). When there was a high voltage difference between both electrodes, a green/yellow glow would appear behind the anode, as if this light was being emitted from the cathode. Physicists called this invisible light "cathode rays".

However, in 1895, Röntgen discovered that there was another unknown radiation being emitted by the Crookes tube, besides the cathode rays. Well, it turns out he had just discovered X-rays!

Then, in 1896, Henri Becquerel enters the picture. Becquerel used the newly discovered X-rays to do some experimentation, and by accident, he stumbled upon the discovery of phosphorescent uranium salts that spontaneously emitted radiation! Becquerel had just discovered a new phenomenon: radioactivity!

Marie Curie was also a pioneer of radioactivity. In 1898, together with her husband Pierre Curie, Marie Curie discovered the elements polonium and radium. Marie was also the one who coined the term radioactivity.

Radioactivity is referred to as the spontaneous decay (disintegration) of the nucleus of an unstable isotope.

## Nuclear Chemistry Equations

The nuclear equations in nuclear chemistry involve special particles called nuclear particles, and the involvement of each of these nuclear particles depends on the type of nuclear decay happening to the nucleus of an unstable isotope.

• Unstable isotopes (radioactive isotopes) are those that have an unstable nucleus that can spontaneously undergo radioactive decay to form a stable isotope (daughter isotope).

Nuclear decay (also known as radioactive decay) is the spontaneous decay (decomposition) of an unstable nucleus that leads to the formation of a stable nucleus (stable isotope). In this process, some mass gets converted into energy.

Most importantly, in nuclear decay, a radioactive isotope with an unstable nucleus (also known as the parent isotope) undergoes spontaneous decomposition of its nucleus to form a daughter isotope with a stable nucleus!

A daughter isotope (or daughter nuclide) is a stable isotope formed from the radioactive decay of the parent isotope containing an unstable nucleus.

There are six nuclear particles associated with nuclear equations. These are the neutron particle, proton particle, beta particle, alpha particle, and positron particle.

• The proton particle has the symbol $$^{1}_{1} \text{p}$$ and a charge of +1.
• The neutron particle has no charge and the symbol $$^{1}_{0} \text{n}$$.
• The beta particle (or electron particle) has a charge of -1 and the symbol $$^{0}_{-1}\beta$$ or $$^{0}_{-1} \text{e}$$.
• The positron particle is the opposite of the beta particle, it was the symbol $$^{0}_{1}\beta$$ and a +1 charge.
• The alpha particle has the symbol $$^{4}_{2}\alpha$$ and a charge of +2

When nuclear decay happens, these nuclear particles are either emitted or absorbed. Now, let's explore the different types of radioactive decay and the nuclear particles involved!

### Beta Decay

Beta decay is probably the most common type of nuclear decay seen in nuclear reactions. In beta decay, an alpha particle ($$^{4}_{2}\alpha$$) is emitted, while the stable isotope loses one neutron and gains a proton.

Beta (β) decay is a radioactive decay that tend to occur in radioactive isotopes with a mass greater than the mass seen in the periodic table for that element.

For example, let's say that you have a radioactive isotope of carbon, carbon-14. The atomic notation for carbon-14 is $$^{14}_6\text {C}$$, meaning that has an atomic number of 6 and a mass number of 14.

Now, if you look for carbon in your periodic table, you will find that the mass of carbon in the periodic table is 12. Since the mass number of carbon-14 is greater (14) than that mass number in the periodic table, carbon-14 will undergo beta decay.

$$^{14}_{6}\text{C }\longrightarrow \text{ }^{0}_{-1}\text{e + }^{14}_{7}\text{N}$$

### Electron Capture and Positron Emission

Electron capture is basically the opposite of what we just saw in beta decay. During electron capture, a beta particle is absorbed instead of emitted.

Electron capture is a radioactive decay that tends to occur in radioactive isotopes with a mass smaller than the mass seen in the periodic table for that element

During electron capture, an electron in an atom's inner shell is drawn into the nucleus where it combines with a proton, forming a neutron and a neutrino. The neutrino is ejected from the atom's nucleus. The nuclear equation below shows the electron capture in 196Pb.

$$^{196}_{82}\text{Pb + } ^{0}_{-1}\text{e }\longrightarrow ^{196}_{81}\text{Tl + } \nu_{e}$$

Let's solve a problem!

What type of nuclear decay will the isotope $$^{26}_{13} \text{Al}$$ most likely undergo?

The first thing we need to do is look for Aluminum (Al) in the periodic table and compare their masses. In the periodic table, Aluminum (Al) has a mass of 29.982. So, since the mass of the isotope is smaller than the mass in the periodic table, $$^{26} \text{Al}$$ will most likely undergo electron capture!

$$^{26}_{13}\text{ Al}+\text{ } ^{0}_{-1}\beta\to \text{ }^{26}_{12}\text{ Mg}$$

Positron emission is a type of nuclear decay that can happen in isotopes with a mass smaller than that in the periodic table. In this case, a positron particle gets emitted, leading to the isotope gaining one neutron and losing one proton.

The nuclear equations for the positron emission in $$^{26} \text{Al}$$ is shown below:

$$^{26}_{13}\text{ Al }\to ^{0}_{1}\beta\text{ + }^{26}_{12}\text{ Mg }$$

### Alpha Decay

The fourth type of nuclear decay is called alpha decay.

Alpha (α) decay is a radioactive decay that tend to occur in radioactive isotopes with an atomic number higher than 82.

In this case, an alpha particle ($$^{4}_{2}\alpha$$) gets emitted, and the resulting isotope will lose two protons and two neutrons (the equivalent of a helium nucleus!).

$$^{238}_{92}\text{U }\to \text{ }^{234}_{90}\text{Th + } ^{4}_{2} \alpha$$

Interested in learning how to balance nuclear reactions? Check out "Balancing Nuclear Equations"!

## Nuclear Chemistry Examples

Now that we know what nuclear chemistry encompasses and the different types of nuclear decay that can occur, let's look at some examples.

Plutonium-239 is a radioactive isotope of the element plutonium, and it is used in the generation of nuclear weapons. Since $$^{239}_{94} \text {Pu}$$ has an atomic number greater than 82 (94 > 82), its expected mode of decay is alpha decay.

$$^{239}_{94}\text{Pu }\to \text{ }^{235}_{92}\text{U + } ^{4}_{2} \alpha$$

Another example of an important radioactive isotope in nuclear chemistry is Fluorine-18. This isotope is important in positron emission tomography (PET), a type of imaging used to see the metabolic functions of tissues and organs. Fluorine-18 undergoes positron emission.

$$^{18}_{9}\text{ F }\to \text { } ^{0}_{1}\beta\text{ + }^{18}_{8}\text{O}$$

## Applications of Nuclear Chemistry

To finish off, let's talk explore the applications of nuclear chemistry. Nuclear chemistry has very important medical applications, as some radioactive isotopes can be used for imaging, and also in the process of diagnosis and cancer treatment. Samarium-153, for instance, is a radioisotope used in the treatment of bone cancer.

The figure below shows some common isotopes used in the diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases.

Now, I hope that you feel ready to dive deep into nuclear chemistry!

## Nuclear Chemistry - Key takeaways

• Nuclear chemistry is a sub-field of chemistry that studies the changes that happen in the atomic nucleus of elements.
• Nuclear decay (also known as radioactive decay) is the spontaneous decay (decomposition) of an unstable nucleus that leads to the formation of a stable nucleus (stable isotope). In this process, some mass gets converted into energy.
• Types of nuclear decay include alpha decay, beta decay, positron emission and electron capture.

## References

1. House, J. E., & Kathleen Ann House. (2016a). Descriptive inorganic chemistry. Amsterdam ; Boston ; Heidelberg ; London ; New York ; Oxford ; Paris ; San Diego ; Singapore ; Sydney ; Tokyo Elsevier.
2. Moore, J. T., & Langley, R. (2021a). McGraw Hill : AP chemistry, 2022. Mcgraw-Hill Education.
3. Timberlake, K. C., & Orgill, M. (2019). General, organic, and biological chemistry : structures of life. Pearson.
4. Theodore Lawrence Brown, Eugene, H., Bursten, B. E., Murphy, C. J., Woodward, P. M., Stoltzfus, M. W., & Lufaso, M. W. (2018). Chemistry : the central science (14th ed.). Pearson.

Nuclear chemistry is a sub-field of chemistry that studies the changes that happen in the nucleus of elements.

Nuclear chemistry is used in everyday life for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Nuclear chemistry is important because it deals with nuclear reactions and decay.

Nuclear chemistry has very important medical applications, as some radioactive isotopes can be used for imaging, and also in the process of diagnosis and cancer treatment. Samarium-153, for instance, is a radioisotope used in the treatment of bone cancer.

Stable isotopes will not undergo nuclear decay, whereas unstable isotopes will undergo decay and be considered radioactive.

Some benefits of nuclear chemistry include using radioactive isotopes for the dating of objects, and also in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

## Nuclear Chemistry Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

The periodic table arranges elements according to their  _______.

atomic number

Show question

Question

The atomic number is the number of _____ that in the nucleus.

protons

Show question

Question

The number of protons is also equal to the number of ______ the atom has when it is neutrally charged.

electrons

Show question

Question

The atomic mass of an element is the average mass of all the average occurring _____ of that element.

isotopes

Show question

Question

True or false: during nuclear reactions, mass is actually converted into large amounts of energy.

True

Show question

Question

The proton particle contains a mass number of _____ and an atomic number of 1.

1

Show question

Question

A _____  particle has a mass number of 0 and a charge of - 1.

beta

Show question

Question

A _____  is the term used to refer to the subatomic particles living in the nucleus (protons and neutrons).

nucleon

Show question

Question

True or false: Nuclear decay is the spontaneous decomposition of a nucleus that leads to the formation of a different nucleus.

True

Show question

Question

During alpha decay, the net result is a  _____ in mass, emitted an alpha particle as a product.

reduction

Show question

Question

Electron capture involves the _____ of a beta particle.

absorption

Show question

Question

Which type of nuclear decay gives off a positron particle as a product?

Positron emission

Show question

Question

To balance a nuclear equation, the main is to balance the _______ and ______  on both sides of the reaction.

mass number

Show question

Question

The ______ is the number of protons of an element (or charge when it comes to nuclear particles).

atomic number

Show question

Question

The _____  is the avg. mass of an atom, taking into consideration the masses of its isotopes

atomic mass

Show question

Question

A _____ has a mass number of 1 and a charge of 0.

Neutron particle

Show question

Question

____ particles are equivalent to a helium nucleus.

alpha

Show question

Question

Nuclei that are considered radioactive are also known as _____.

Show question

Question

Atoms possessing a radioactive nucleus are called _______.

Show question

Question

True or false: nuclear reaction happens when  two nuclei, or a nucleus and a subatomic particle (proton, neutron, or electron) collide to form products.

True

Show question

Question

Radioactive decay occurs when an atom's nucleus ______ breaks down, releasing energy and matter.

spontaneously

Show question

Question

______  is referred to as the fusion of two or more lighter nuclei to form a heavier, more stable nucleus.

Nuclear fusion

Show question

Question

The energy produced by stars (for example, the sun) happens through ______.

nuclear fusion

Show question

Question

Nuclear fusion releases energy and a _____  nucleus as products.

helium

Show question

Question

_____ is referred to as the process of splitting a heavy nucleus into two nuclei with smaller mass numbers (number of protons plus neutrons).

Nuclear fission

Show question

Question

During nuclear fission, a ______ is fired at an atom with a heavy nucleus, breaking it up into atoms with smaller nuclei by emitting neutrons.

neutron

Show question

Question

Atoms of the same element that vary in the number of ______ in their nucleus are called isotopes

neutrons

Show question

Question

____ number is the number of protons + neutrons.

mass

Show question

Question

_____ is the number of protons in the element's atomic nucleus.

Atomic number

Show question

Question

Which is the most abundant isotope of hydrogen?

Hydrogen-1

Show question

Question

Which is the following isotopes of hydrogen is considered radioactive?

Tritium

Show question

Question

How many neutrons does hydrogen-2 have?

1

Show question

Question

True or false: Isotopes that possess a stable nucleus are known as non-radioactive isotopes

True

Show question

Question

_____  is the process by which an atom's nucleus spontaneously decays, releasing nuclear particles and radiation in the process.

Show question

Question

Radioactive isotopes undergo spontaneous nuclear decay in other to become a _____ isotope (and get closer to the belt of stability).

stable

Show question

Question

If a radioactive isotope has a high neutron-to-proton ratio it will most likely undergo _____.

beta (β) decay

Show question

Question

If a radioactive isotope has a low neutron-to-proton ratio it will most likely undergo _____ or ______.

positron emission

Show question

Question

Nuclei with atomic number > 83 tend to undergo _____ losing two proton and two neutrons.

alpha decay

Show question

Question

_____ is a radioactive isotope of carbon.

Carbon-14

Show question

Question

What is half-life of an isotope?

The half life of a radioactive isotope is referred to as the amount of time taken for 1/2 of a radioisotope sample to decay.

Show question

Question

True or false: carbon-12 is commonly used in carbon dating.

False

Show question

Question

What is carbon dating?

Carbon dating (also called carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating) is a method of determining the age of an organic substance by looking at the concentration of carbon-14

Show question

Question

How far back can carbon dating reliably date?

50,000 years

Show question

Question

What are isotopes?

Isotopes are different forms of the same element that have a different number of neutrons.

Show question

Question

How is carbon-14 formed?

Carbon-14 is produced in Earth's atmosphere. It is formed by a reaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen (N2). These cosmic rays contain high energy neutrons, which react with the nitrogen to form carbon-14

Show question

Question

Why is carbon-14 used instead of carbon-12?

Carbon-14 will start to decay when a species dies, while carbon-12 is stable and will therefore not decay

Show question

Question

Radioactive decay occurs when a species is unstable, so it emits energy and/or particles to stabilize itself.

Show question

Question

What is half-life?

A species half-life is the time is takes for that species to decay to 50% of its original concentration.

Show question

Question

What is the half-life for carbon-14?

5,730 years

Show question

Question

What is the formula for carbon dating?

$$t=\frac{(ln(\frac{N_t}{N_0}))}{(-0.693)}*5,730\,years$$

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Nuclear Chemistry quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

## Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

## Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

## Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

## Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

## Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

## Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

## Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

## Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

## Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

## Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

## Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

## Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.