Nuclear Physics, Physics tutorial


Nuclear physics is the branch of physics field that is concerned with structure of atomic nuclei, and understanding of potential ways in which to influence atomic nuclei. This branch of physics dates to early 20th century, when scientists started to realize that atom had structure and that understanding this structure could be significant. The most infamous application of nuclear physics was probably development of the atom bomb but field has numerous more applications, comprising highly advantageous ones.

One of the most varied applications of nuclear physics is in medicine. Work of nuclear physicists is behind the number of medical imaging methods that are utilized to give non-invasive looks in body. Radioactive isotopes used in treatment of some medical conditions like cancer are also product of research in nuclear physics, with physicists learning about such isotopes and how they can be applied carefully and efficiently to deal with medical problems.

Certain features of engineering need knowledge of nuclear physics, most particularly in nuclear engineering, field that involves development of nuclear power plants that can do anything from generating electricity to powering submarines. Radiocarbon dating, a method utilized in geology and archeology, is also product of nuclear physics.

A given atom is specified by the number of

  • neutrons: N
  • protons: Z
  • electrons: there are Z electron in neutral atoms

Atoms of the same element have same atomic number Z. They are not all equal, however. Isotopes of  the  same element  have  different  #  of  neutrons  N. A Isotopes are denoted by AZXN or more frequently by AZX where X is chemical symbol and A = Z+ N is mass number.

Nuclear fusion:

Nuclear fusion is the procedure by which numerous atoms containing same charge join together in order to create a heavier nucleus. In some cases, depending on mass, energy can be released or absorbed during this procedure. It is a very significant energy source.

Nuclear fusion as the source of manmade energy is still mainly in developmental stage, although some fusion power plants are online. Most of the energy generated this way which provides advantages to humans and other life forms comes from sun. Fusion is the procedure by which all stars produce energy.

The problem with producing nuclear fusion lies in getting two atoms having same charge close to each other as such atoms usually repel each other rather than moving together. Once brought together, though, nuclear force starts to take over. This force will attract nuclei of two or more atoms toward each other and begin fusion procedure, but this takes place only if they are in close enough proximity.

Nuclear fission:

Nuclear fission is splitting of the atom's nucleus, therefore creating two products of roughly half the mass of the original. During the procedure few neutrons are also released. This procedure releases substantial amount of energy. Nuclear fission is physical process responsible for all kinds of power generation, comprising which utilized in both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.

There are several elements which can be utilized in nuclear fission, but the most common is uranium. This material is popular for various different reasons, but two of the most significant are that it is plentiful, and there are isotopes of uranium that are easy to split. The most commonly used isotope of uranium for nuclear energy production is known as U-235. In addition to U-235, plutonium is another substance at times utilized for nuclear power.


Radioactivity is the procedure whereby unstable atomic nuclei release energetic subatomic particles or electromagnetic radiation (EMR). This event can cause one element to turn in another and is partially responsible for heat of Earth's core. Radioactivity has broad range of uses, comprising nuclear power, in medicine, and in dating organic and geological samples.

Radioactive Decay:

Unstable atomic nuclei decay when they lose some of their mass or energy to reach more stable, lower energy, state. This procedure is most frequently observed in heavier elements, like uranium. None of the elements heavier than lead has any stable isotopes but lighter elements can also exist in unstable, radioactive, forms, like carbon-14.

Types of Decay:

Alpha decay: It is the form of radioactive decay in which alpha particle is emitted by the heavy element in an attempt to turn out to be more stable. The other kinds of radioactive decay are beta decay and gamma decay. Particle detectors can be utilized to detect emission of alpha particles, and procedure of alpha decay can also be utilized to construct detection devices.

Beta decay: It is the form of radioactive decay in which nucleus of the atom experiences the change that causes it to emit beta particle. The other kinds of radioactive decay are alpha decay and gamma decay. To being topic of general scientific interest, beta decay has number of practical applications, particularly in field of medicine, where beta particles are at times utilized to shrink or kill tumors.

Gamma decay: A nucleus changes from the higher energy state to lower energy state through emission of electromagnetic radiation (photons). Number of protons (and neutrons) in nucleus doesn't change in this procedure, so parent and daughter atoms are the similar chemical element. In gamma decay of nucleus, emitted photon and recoiling nucleus each have well-defined energy after decay. Characteristic energy is separated between only two particles.

Uses of radioactivity:

The uses of radioactivity are maybe in nuclear power stations and in nuclear weapons. First atomic weapons use runaway chain reaction to release the huge amount of energy in form of intense heat, light, and ionizing radiation. Though modern nuclear weapons mainly use fusion to release energy, this is still started by fission reaction. Nuclear power stations use cautiously handled fission to generate heat to drive steam turbines which produce electricity.

Health Effects:

In the health context, all emissions from decaying atomic nuclei, whether particles or EMR, tend to be explained as radiation, and they are all potentially hazardous. Such emissions are either ionizing in themselves or interact with matter in body in a way which generates ionizing radiation. This signifies that they can remove electrons from atoms, turning them in positively charged ions. These can then react with other atoms in the molecule, or in neighboring molecules, cause chemical changes which can kill cells or cause cancer, particularly if radiation has interacted with DNA.

Nuclear physics in medicine:

Behaviour of particular nuclei, both stable and unstable, can be influenced and observed to diagnose and cure disease. Basic research in nuclear structure and reactions is necessary in characterizing and estimating new isotopes for medical use, and developing enhanced methods of making and detecting them. This may signify designing more efficient accelerators, targets and detectors. More sensitive detector allows dose of radioactive tracer to be lowered.

University groups like those at Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Surrey have applied medical physics research programs. As most isotopes utilized don't survive for long, they require to be made close to clinic. While some large hospitals have their own accelerator facilities for isotope production, physicists are analyzing smaller, cheaper accelerators and alternative methods of production, in reply to growing demand.

Harnessing nucleus for power:

Climate change, greater energy security and restricted fossil-fuel reserves are powerful reasons for much wider adoption of nuclear energy, with near-zero carbon-dioxide emissions, as the main source of power in medium and long term. Nuclear physicists have essential role to play in not only developing enhanced energy-generation schemes but also in exploring basic science which may lead to novel techniques of harnessing powerful forces locked inside nucleus.

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