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R = R 0 e λt , size 12{R=R rSub { size 8{0} } e rSup { size 8{ - λt} } } {}

where R 0 size 12{R rSub { size 8{0} } } {} is the activity at t = 0 size 12{t=0} {} . This equation shows exponential decay of radioactive nuclei. For example, if a source originally has a 1.00-mCi activity, it declines to 0.500 mCi in one half-life, to 0.250 mCi in two half-lives, to 0.125 mCi in three half-lives, and so on. For times other than whole half-lives, the equation R = R 0 e λt size 12{R=R rSub { size 8{0} } e rSup { size 8{ - λt} } } {} must be used to find R size 12{R} {} .

Phet explorations: alpha decay

Watch alpha particles escape from a polonium nucleus, causing radioactive alpha decay. See how random decay times relate to the half life.

Alpha Decay

Section summary

  • Half-life t 1 / 2 size 12{t rSub { size 8{1/2} } } {} is the time in which there is a 50% chance that a nucleus will decay. The number of nuclei N size 12{N} {} as a function of time is
    N = N 0 e λt , size 12{N=N rSub { size 8{0} } e rSup { size 8{ - λt} } } {}
    where N 0 size 12{N rSub { size 8{0} } } {} is the number present at t = 0 size 12{t=0} {} , and λ size 12{λ} {} is the decay constant, related to the half-life by
    λ = 0 . 693 t 1 / 2 . size 12{λ= { {0 "." "693"} over {t rSub { size 8{1/2} } } } } {}
  • One of the applications of radioactive decay is radioactive dating, in which the age of a material is determined by the amount of radioactive decay that occurs. The rate of decay is called the activity R size 12{R} {} :
    R = Δ N Δ t . size 12{R= { {ΔN} over {Δt} } } {}
  • The SI unit for R size 12{R} {} is the becquerel (Bq), defined by
    1 Bq = 1 decay/s. size 12{1" Bq"="1 decay/s"} {}
  • R size 12{R} {} is also expressed in terms of curies (Ci), where
    1 Ci = 3 . 70 × 10 10 Bq. size 12{1" Ci"=3 "." "70" times "10" rSup { size 8{"10"} } " Bq"} {}
  • The activity R size 12{R} {} of a source is related to N size 12{N} {} and t 1 / 2 size 12{t rSub { size 8{1/2} } } {} by
    R = 0 . 693 N t 1 / 2 . size 12{R= { {0 "." "693"N} over {t rSub { size 8{1/2} } } } } {}
  • Since N size 12{N} {} has an exponential behavior as in the equation N = N 0 e λt size 12{N=N rSub { size 8{0} } e rSup { size 8{ - λt} } } {} , the activity also has an exponential behavior, given by
    R = R 0 e λt , size 12{R=R rSub { size 8{0} } e rSup { size 8{ - λt} } } {}
    where R 0 size 12{R rSub { size 8{0} } } {} is the activity at t = 0 size 12{t=0} {} .

Conceptual questions

In a 3 × 10 9 size 12{3 times "10" rSup { size 8{9} } } {} -year-old rock that originally contained some 238 U , which has a half-life of 4.5 × 10 9 years, we expect to find some 238 U remaining in it. Why are 226 Ra , 222 Rn , and 210 Po also found in such a rock, even though they have much shorter half-lives (1600 years, 3.8 days, and 138 days, respectively)?

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Does the number of radioactive nuclei in a sample decrease to exactly half its original value in one half-life? Explain in terms of the statistical nature of radioactive decay.

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Radioactivity depends on the nucleus and not the atom or its chemical state. Why, then, is one kilogram of uranium more radioactive than one kilogram of uranium hexafluoride?

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Explain how a bound system can have less mass than its components. Why is this not observed classically, say for a building made of bricks?

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Spontaneous radioactive decay occurs only when the decay products have less mass than the parent, and it tends to produce a daughter that is more stable than the parent. Explain how this is related to the fact that more tightly bound nuclei are more stable. (Consider the binding energy per nucleon.)

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To obtain the most precise value of BE from the equation BE= ZM 1 H + Nm n c 2 m A X c 2 size 12{"BE=" left lbrace left [ ital "ZM" left ("" lSup { size 8{1} } H right )+ ital "Nm" rSub { size 8{n} } right ]-m left ("" lSup { size 8{A} } X right ) right rbrace c rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , we should take into account the binding energy of the electrons in the neutral atoms. Will doing this produce a larger or smaller value for BE? Why is this effect usually negligible?

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How does the finite range of the nuclear force relate to the fact that BE / A size 12{ {"BE"} slash {A} } {} is greatest for A size 12{A} {} near 60?

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Problems&Exercises

Data from the appendices and the periodic table may be needed for these problems.

An old campfire is uncovered during an archaeological dig. Its charcoal is found to contain less than 1/1000 the normal amount of 14 C size 12{"" lSup { size 8{"14"} } C} {} . Estimate the minimum age of the charcoal, noting that 2 10 = 1024 size 12{2 rSup { size 8{"10"} } ="1024"} {} .

57,300 y

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Questions & Answers

What is the difference between a principle and a law
the law is universally proved. The principal depends on certain conditions.
Dr
state Faraday first law
aliyu Reply
it states that mass of an element deposited during electrolysis is directly proportional to the quantity of electricity discharge
Olamide
what does the speedometer of a car measure ?
Jyoti Reply
Car speedometer measures the rate of change of distance per unit time.
Moses
describe how a Michelson interferometer can be used to measure the index of refraction of a gas (including air)
WILLIAM Reply
using the law of reflection explain how powder takes the shine off a person's nose. what is the name of the optical effect?
WILLIAM
is higher resolution of microscope using red or blue light?.explain
WILLIAM
what is dimensional consistent
Mohammed
In engineering and science, dimensional analysis is the analysis of the relationships between different physical quantities by identifying their base quantities and units of measure and tracking these dimensions as calculations or comparisons are performed
syed
can sound wave in air be polarized?
WILLIAM Reply
Unlike transverse waves such as electromagnetic waves, longitudinal waves such as sound waves cannot be polarized. ... Since sound waves vibrate along their direction of propagation, they cannot be polarized
Astronomy
A proton moves at 7.50×107m/s perpendicular to a magnetic field. The field causes the proton to travel in a circular path of radius 0.800 m. What is the field strength?
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derived dimenionsal formula
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what is the difference between mass and weight
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assume that a boy was born when his father was eighteen years.if the boy is thirteen years old now, how is his father in
Isru
31yrs
Olamide
what is head-on collision
Javaid Reply
what is airflow
Godswill Reply
derivative of first differential equation
Haruna Reply
why static friction is greater than Kinetic friction
Ali Reply
draw magnetic field pattern for two wire carrying current in the same direction
Ven Reply
An American traveler in New Zealand carries a transformer to convert New Zealand’s standard 240 V to 120 V so that she can use some small appliances on her trip.
nkombo Reply
What is the ratio of turns in the primary and secondary coils of her transformer?
nkombo
what is energy
Yusuf
How electric lines and equipotential surface are mutually perpendicular?
Abid Reply
The potential difference between any two points on the surface is zero that implies È.Ŕ=0, Where R is the distance between two different points &E= Electric field intensity. From which we have cos þ =0, where þ is the angle between the directions of field and distance line, as E andR are zero. Thus
MAHADEV
sorry..E and R are non zero...
MAHADEV
Practice Key Terms 8

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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