This cost-free resource is a chapter from a textbook on introductory chemistry, developed for learners with little background in physics or chemistry. This chapter deals with the atomic nucleus and radiation, nuclear energy, and uses of radioactive substances. It is appropriate for teachers seeking additional content knowledge, high school physics and chemistry courses, and college-level preparatory chemistry. It builds a foundation to understand the physical forces in the nucleus (electrostatic force and strong force), and explains how chemical reactions differ from nuclear reactions. Graphs and diagrams depict what happens in radioactive decay. The section on chemical nuclear equations is straightforward and comprehensible for non-scientists.
This collection is part of An Introduction to Chemistry, a set of resources developed by Mark Bishop which includes two textbooks, 15 animated tutorials, downloadable Power Point presentations for teachers, concept maps, and 3D molecular models.
Metadata instance created
July 22, 2011
by Caroline Hall
October 3, 2013
by Caroline Hall
Last Update when Cataloged:
February 24, 2011
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
3. The Nature of Technology
3C. Issues in Technology
6-8: 3C/M4. Technology is largely responsible for the great revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation and medicine, warfare, transportation, information processing, and communications that have radically changed how people live and work.
6-8: 3C/M5. New technologies increase some risks and decrease others. Some of the same technologies that have improved the length and quality of life for many people have also brought new risks.
9-12: 3C/H5. Human inventiveness has brought new risks as well as improvements to human existence.
4. The Physical Setting
4D. The Structure of Matter
6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
6-8: 4D/M1b. The atoms of any element are like other atoms of the same element, but are different from the atoms of other elements.
9-12: 4D/H3. Although neutrons have little effect on how an atom interacts with other atoms, the number of neutrons does affect the mass and stability of the nucleus. Isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons (and therefore of electrons) but differ in the number of neutrons.
9-12: 4D/H4. The nucleus of radioactive isotopes is unstable and spontaneously decays, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. It cannot be predicted exactly when, if ever, an unstable nucleus will decay, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability of decay rate allows radioactivity to be used for estimating the age of materials that contain radioactive substances.
4E. Energy Transformations
9-12: 4E/H6. Energy is released whenever the nuclei of very heavy atoms, such as uranium or plutonium, split into middleweight ones, or when very light nuclei, such as those of hydrogen and helium, combine into heavier ones. For a given quantity of a substance, the energy released in a nuclear reaction is very much greater than the energy given off in a chemical reaction.
4G. Forces of Nature
9-12: 4G/H6. The nuclear forces that hold the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom together are much stronger than the electric forces between the protons and electrons of the atom. That is why much greater amounts of energy are released from nuclear reactions than from chemical reactions.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)
Nuclear Processes (PS1.C)
Nuclear processes, including fusion, fission, and radioactive decays of unstable nuclei, involve release or absorption of energy. The total number of neutrons plus protons does not change in any nuclear process. (9-12)
Spontaneous radioactive decays follow a characteristic exponential decay law. Nuclear lifetimes allow radiometric dating to be used to determine the ages of rocks and other materials. (9-12)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). (9-12)
Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)
Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural systems. (6-8)
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth). (9-12)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
In nuclear processes, atoms are not conserved, but the total number of protons plus neutrons is conserved. (9-12)
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model Unit Title: Molecular Structures and Bonding
Looking for content support in nuclear processes, or want to supplement your students' textbook? This is a chapter from a cost-free digital textbook, developed for non-scientists. This chapter deals with the atomic nucleus and radiation, nuclear energy, and uses of radioactive substances. It builds a foundation to understand the physical forces in the nucleus (electrostatic force and strong force), and explains how chemical reactions differ from nuclear reactions. Graphs and diagrams depict what happens in radioactive decay. The section on chemical nuclear equations is straightforward and comprehensible for non-scientists.
%0 Electronic Source %A Bishop, Mark %D February 24, 2011 %T An Introduction to Chemistry: Nuclear Chemistry %V 2015 %N 30 January 2015 %8 February 24, 2011 %9 text/html %U http://preparatorychemistry.com/Bishop_Book_atoms_16.pdf
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