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3: Nuclear Chemistry

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    Most chemists pay little attention to the nucleus of an atom except to consider the number of protons it contains because that determines an element’s identity. However, in nuclear chemistry, the composition of the nucleus and the changes that occur there are very important. Applications of nuclear chemistry may be more widespread than you realize. Many people are aware of nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs, but nuclear chemistry also has applications ranging from smoke detectors to medicine, from the sterilization of food to the analysis of ancient artifacts. In this chapter, we will examine some of the basic concepts of nuclear chemistry and some of the nuclear reactions that are important in our everyday lives.

    • 3.1: Radioactivity
      The major types of radioactivity include alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays.
    • 3.2: Half-Life
      Natural radioactive processes are characterized by a half-life, the time it takes for half of the material to decay radioactively. The amount of material left over after a certain number of half-lives can be easily calculated.
    • 3.3: Units of Radioactivity
      Radioactivity can be expressed in a variety of units, including rems, rads, and curies.
    • 3.4: Uses of Radioactive Isotopes
      Radioactivity has several practical applications, including tracers, medical applications, dating once-living objects, and the preservation of food.
    • 3.5: Nuclear Energy
      Nuclear energy comes from tiny mass changes in nuclei as radioactive processes occur. In fission, large nuclei break apart and release energy; in fusion, small nuclei merge together and release energy.
    • 3.6: 3.6 Chapter Summary
      Chapter summary
    • 3.7: Ionic Bonding and Simple Ionic Compounds
      There are only 118 known chemical elements but tens of millions of known chemical compounds. Compounds can be very complex combinations of atoms, but many important compounds are fairly simple. Table salt, as we have seen, consists of only two elements: sodium and chlorine. Nevertheless, the compound has properties completely different from either elemental sodium (a chemically reactive metal) or elemental chlorine (a poisonous, green gas).

    3: Nuclear Chemistry is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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