In today’s society, the term radioactivity conjures up a variety of images:
- Nuclear power plants producing hydrocarbon-free energy, but with potentially deadly by-products that are difficult to store safely.
- Bombs with the capacity to use nuclear reactions that produce devastating explosions with horrible side effects on the earth as we know it, and on the surviving populations that inhabit it.
- Medical technology that utilizes nuclear chemistry to peer inside living things to detect disease, and the power to irradiate tissues to potentially cure these diseases.
- Fusion reactors that hold the promise of limitless energy with few toxic side products.
Radioactivity has a colorful history and clearly presents a variety of social and scientific dilemmas. In this chapter we will introduce the basic concepts of radioactivity, nuclear equations, and the processes involved in nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
- 14.1: The Discovery of Radioactivity
- Henri Becquerel, Marie Curie, and Pierre Curie shared the discovery of radioactivity.
- 14.2: Types of Radioactivity- Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay
- The major types of radioactivity include alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. Fission is a type of radioactivity in which large nuclei spontaneously break apart into smaller nuclei.
- 14.3: Natural Radioactivity and Half-Life
- During natural radioactive decay, not all atoms of an element are instantaneously changed to atoms of another element. The decay process takes time and there is value in being able to express the rate at which a process occurs. A useful concept is half-life, which is the time required for half of the starting material to change or decay. Half-lives can be calculated from measurements on the change in mass of a nuclide and the time it takes to occur.
- 14.4: Applications of Nuclear Chemistry
- 14.4.1: Detecting Radioactivity
- 14.4.2: Radiocarbon Dating- Using Radioactivity to Measure the Age of Fossils and Other Artifacts
- 14.4.3: The Discovery of Fission and the Atomic Bomb
- 14.4.4: Nuclear Power- Using Fission to Generate Electricity
- 14.4.5: Nuclear Fusion- The Power of the Sun
- 14.4.6: The Effects of Radiation on Life
- 14.4.7: Radioactivity in Medicine
- 14.E: Nuclear Chemistry (Exercises)
- These are exercises and select solutions to accompany Chapter 15 of the "Beginning Chemistry" Textmap formulated around the Ball et al. textbook.
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