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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the synthesis of transuranium nuclides
  • Explain nuclear fission and fusion processes
  • Relate the concepts of critical mass and nuclear chain reactions
  • Summarize basic requirements for nuclear fission and fusion reactors

After the discovery of radioactivity, the field of nuclear chemistry was created and developed rapidly during the early twentieth century. A slew of new discoveries in the 1930s and 1940s, along with World War II, combined to usher in the Nuclear Age in the mid-twentieth century. Science learned how to create new substances, and certain isotopes of certain elements were found to possess the capacity to produce unprecedented amounts of energy, with the potential to cause tremendous damage during war, as well as produce enormous amounts of power for society’s needs during peace.

Synthesis of nuclides

Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one nuclide into another. It can occur by the radioactive decay of a nucleus, or the reaction of a nucleus with another particle. The first manmade nucleus was produced in Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory in 1919 by a transmutation reaction, the bombardment of one type of nuclei with other nuclei or with neutrons. Rutherford bombarded nitrogen atoms with high-speed α particles from a natural radioactive isotope of radium and observed protons resulting from the reaction:

7 14 N + 2 4 He 8 17 O + 1 1 H

The 8 17 O and 1 1 H nuclei that are produced are stable, so no further (nuclear) changes occur.

To reach the kinetic energies necessary to produce transmutation reactions, devices called particle accelerators are used. These devices use magnetic and electric fields to increase the speeds of nuclear particles. In all accelerators, the particles move in a vacuum to avoid collisions with gas molecules. When neutrons are required for transmutation reactions, they are usually obtained from radioactive decay reactions or from various nuclear reactions occurring in nuclear reactors. The Chemistry in Everyday Life feature that follows discusses a famous particle accelerator that made worldwide news.

Cern particle accelerator

Located near Geneva, the CERN (“Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire,” or European Council for Nuclear Research) Laboratory is the world’s premier center for the investigations of the fundamental particles that make up matter. It contains the 27-kilometer (17 mile) long, circular Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest particle accelerator in the world ( [link] ). In the LHC, particles are boosted to high energies and are then made to collide with each other or with stationary targets at nearly the speed of light. Superconducting electromagnets are used to produce a strong magnetic field that guides the particles around the ring. Specialized, purpose-built detectors observe and record the results of these collisions, which are then analyzed by CERN scientists using powerful computers.

Two photos are shown and labeled “a” and “b.” Photo a shows an aerial view of the Large Hadron Collider. Photo b shows a tunnel of concrete with rails on the ground and tubes and wires running along the wall. Two people walk along the tunnel.
A small section of the LHC is shown with workers traveling along it. (credit: Christophe Delaere)

In 2012, CERN announced that experiments at the LHC showed the first observations of the Higgs boson, an elementary particle that helps explain the origin of mass in fundamental particles. This long-anticipated discovery made worldwide news and resulted in the awarding of the 2103 Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter Higgs, who had predicted the existence of this particle almost 50 years previously.

Questions & Answers

what is an atom
Precious Reply
An atom is the smallest particle of an element which can take part in a chemical reaction..
olotu
hello
Karan
how to find the rate of reaction?
Karan
what is isomerism ?
Lucky Reply
Formula for equilibrium
Danmori Reply
is it equilibrium constant
olotu
Yes
Olatunde
yes
David
what us atomic of molecule
Imhologhomhe Reply
chemical formula for water
Muhammad Reply
H20
Samson
what is elemental
Maryam Reply
what are the properties of pressure
Maryam
How can water be turned to gas
VICTOR
what's a periodic table
Okiemute Reply
how does carbon catenate?
obuke Reply
condition in cracking from Diesel to petrol
Brient Reply
hey I don't understand anything in chemistry so I was wondering if you could help me
Ruth Reply
i also
Okikiola
I also
Brient
hello
Brient
condition for cracking diesel to form kerosene
Brient
Really?
Isa
yes
Brient
can you tell me
Brient
please let me know
Brient
what is periodic law
rotimi Reply
periodic law state that the physical and chemical properties of an element is the periodic function of their atomic number
rotimi
how is valency calculated
Ashley Reply
How is velency calculated
Bankz
Hi am Isaac, The number of electrons within the outer shell of the element determine its valency . To calculate the valency of an element(or molecule, for that matter), there are multiple methods. ... The valency of an atom is equal to the number of electrons in the outer shell if that number is fou
YAKUBU
what is the oxidation number of this compound fecl2,fecl3,fe2o3
Asmau Reply
bonds formed in an endothermic reaction are weaker than the reactants but y r these compound stable at higher temperatures
zille Reply
what is a disproportionation reaction
Ogor Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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