 College Physics

# Introduction to Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics

College PhysicsIntroduction to Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics

Figure 31.1 The synchrotron source produces electromagnetic radiation, as evident from the visible glow. (credit: United States Department of Energy, via Wikimedia Commons)

### Chapter Outline

• Explain the types of radiation—alpha emission, beta emission, and gamma emission.
• Explain the ionization of radiation in an atom.
• Define the range of radiation.
• Explain the working principle of a Geiger tube.
• Define and discuss radiation detectors.
31.3 Substructure of the Nucleus
• Define and discuss the nucleus in an atom.
• Define atomic number.
• Define and discuss isotopes.
• Calculate the density of the nucleus.
• Explain nuclear force.
31.4 Nuclear Decay and Conservation Laws
• Define and discuss nuclear decay.
• State the conservation laws.
• Explain parent and daughter nucleus.
• Calculate the energy emitted during nuclear decay.
31.5 Half-Life and Activity
• Define half-life.
• Define dating.
• Calculate age of old objects by radioactive dating.
31.6 Binding Energy
• Define and discuss binding energy.
• Calculate the binding energy per nucleon of a particle.
31.7 Tunneling
• Define and discuss tunneling.
• Define potential barrier.
• Explain quantum tunneling.

There is an ongoing quest to find substructures of matter. At one time, it was thought that atoms would be the ultimate substructure, but just when the first direct evidence of atoms was obtained, it became clear that they have a substructure and a tiny nucleus. The nucleus itself has spectacular characteristics. For example, certain nuclei are unstable, and their decay emits radiations with energies millions of times greater than atomic energies. Some of the mysteries of nature, such as why the core of the earth remains molten and how the sun produces its energy, are explained by nuclear phenomena. The exploration of radioactivity and the nucleus revealed fundamental and previously unknown particles, forces, and conservation laws. That exploration has evolved into a search for further underlying structures, such as quarks. In this chapter, the fundamentals of nuclear radioactivity and the nucleus are explored. The following two chapters explore the more important applications of nuclear physics in the field of medicine. We will also explore the basics of what we know about quarks and other substructures smaller than nuclei. Do you know how you learn best?