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Transmutation refers to the

changing of the nature of the
nucleus of the atom. This
process may result in many
possibilities, depending on how
the nucleus changes.

Forces within the atom.

It is important to remember that the
atom is constantly trying to
balance between many forces.
The strong force is trying to keep
the protons from repelling each
other. The weak force is keeping
the neutron a neutron (remember
it wants to be a proton and an
electron). The electromagnetic
force is causing the nucleus to
attract to the electrons.

The Weak Force

Neutrons are more complex than one
might imagine. They are actually a
proton combined with an electron.
Remember that even though we say the
electron has no mass, it really does (the
electron has a mass of 1/1836 of a
proton), so this means that the neutron
is really ever so slightly heavier than a
See next slide.


Strong forces are those that try to

keep the proton in the nucleus. It
does take a lot of force to do this. For
this to happen smoothly, the neutron is
constantly sending its electron to a
nearby proton. This does two things,
it causes the neutron to become a
proton and the proton changes into a
neutron. The process happens
millions of times a second.

Strong Forces

Beta Decay
Sometimes when the neutron ejects
the electron it is not captured by a
nearby proton, producing what is
called BETA DECAY. A neutron
becomes a proton and the atom
becomes an entirely new atom since it
now has a different atomic number.
See next slide.

Nuclear Stability
The nucleus of the atom wants to be
stable, meaning that all the various
forces complement each other. When
these forces are out of balance, the
atom will do a number of things to
make itself into a more stable atom.
An unstable atom can result from the
ratio of protons to neutrons being too
few neutrons (the glue that holds the
nucleus together), or too many
neutrons. If the ratio is not correct, the
atom will become radioactive.

A radioactive atom results when the nucleus
of the atom attempts to become more
stable by changing itself. This change
results in RADIATION. The type of
radiation given off depends on how the
nucleus transmutates.
For example:
- alpha decay results when the nucleus of
the atom gives off a two protons and
two neutrons, which is essentially the
nucleus of a helium atom. This changes
the mass of the element by 4 amu.
- beta decay occurs when a neutron
changes into a proton and an electron,
which is released from the atom. You end
up with a NEW ATOM, BUT The mass of
the atom remains the same.

Radioactive decay is a stochastic (random)

process at the level of single atoms, in that,
according to quantum theory, it is impossible
to predict when a particular atom will decay.
However, the chance that a given atom will
decay is constant over time. For a large
number of atoms, the decay rate for the
collection is computable from the measured
decay constants of the nuclides (or
equivalently from the half lives). In other
words, there is a specific time of decay for
each atom that is radioactive and this is

- gamma rays are the highest

energy of the three types of
radiation studied. Instead
of subatomic parts being
discharged from the
nucleus of the atom,
protons and neutrons are
converted into pure energy.

Alpha Decay
Here you can see the alpha particles, or
helium nucleus leaving the nucleus of the
atom. The strong force has been overcome.

Alpha () Decay
Radium alpha decay
Notice that since an alpha particle
consists of two protons and two
neutrons, the mass of the atom
decreases by FOUR and the
atomic number decreases by
TWO, changing the atom into

Notice that in this example of Alpha Decay, that

two smaller daughter atoms are created. The
mass and atomic of each equal the larger
Uranium atom.

Alpha decay, same substance, just shown differently.

Beta () Decay Example

Radium beta decay
Notice two things here. Beta decay
converts a neutron into a proton
(which makes a new atom) but
the mass remains the same. A
high energy electron is ejected
from the atom.

Examples of Beta Decay

Note in each case that a new atom of a higher

atomic number is created.

Beta Decay
Beta decay occurs when a NEUTRON changes into a
PROTON. In doing so, an electron is ejected and a
NEW ATOM FORMS (this is called a
DAUGHTER ATOM). Here the atomic number
goes from 55 Cs, to 56, Ba.

Neutron changing into a proton and an electron.

Gamma Decay

Half Life
Each radioactive isotope of an element
has its own half-life. This is defined as
the time that it takes for of the
material to no longer be radioactive.
The life of a material may be as short
as a few seconds or as long as several
billion years.

Material Still There

Notice with half life that you
still have material after it no
longer becomes radioactive.
It just changes into something
else. This has to be as
matter is neither created nor

Fission is defined as the splitting
of the nucleus of the atom to
make two roughly equal sized
smaller atoms.
It is important to remember that the
nucleus of the atom contains most
of the measurable mass of the
atom, so the masses of the newly
formed atoms are close to each
other too.

How does fission occur?

One way that fission occurs is that a neutron is ejected into a

mass of atoms and collides with the nucleus. It becomes
unstable and continues to split, ejecting subatomic particles.

Nuclear power plants control this fission (absorbing

neutrons) with control rods. When the rods are down,
neutrons are absorbed the fission process slows.

In the case of nuclear weapons, a piece of unstable

material is fired into another mass of unstable
material. These particles then begin the process of
uncontrolled fission. This can be accomplished in a
number of ways.

The other method to attain fission is to

implode a radioactive substance into
another radioactive substance (left photo).
Here you see the designs of the two bombs
exploded over Japan.

A Sheldon Cooper Trivia

Little Boy and Fat Man were named after Churchill
and Truman. Fat Boy would have been Churchill, and
Little Boy, Truman. The names come from their
physical appearance.

Example 1
If an atom of Sulfur were to
undergo FISSION, what
would be the likely
32.1 S
See the next slide for the

Example 1 Answer
Since the atomic number for Sulfur is 16, the
splitting of the nucleus into two equal parts will
result in two atoms of Oxygen, Atomic Number
of 8. The mass would also split giving each atom
a mass of 8 amu.





Notice that since the number of protons changed from

16 to 8, a new atom was formed.

Example 2
What would be the most likely products if
an atom of silver, Ag, were to undergo

Answer next slide.


Example 2 Answer
Silver has an odd atomic number, 47.
Since it is not possible to have half of a
proton the atom will split into two
different atoms whose atomic numbers
sum to 47.
108Ag 54V



Notice here that since the atomic number

is 47, the two atoms formed are
different. Both atoms would be isotopes
since the masses are different.

Fusion is defined as the
combining of the nucleus of
two atoms to make one larger
This is the process that takes place
on the sun where the sun
combines two Hydrogen atoms to
make a helium atom.

Example 1
What would be the most likely product if
an atom of Ga were fused with an
atom of Se?





Example 1 Answer
Since fusion combines the nucleus the
new atom would be element 65, Tb.





Since mass cannot be created or

destroyed the sum of the masses
cannot exceed 149. The new atom
formed would be an isotope of Tb.

New Elements
The process of fusion is used by
scientists to create new elements.
Basically, they take two elements and
at very high speeds, collide them. The
nuclei of the two atoms smash into
each other and join together. Some of
the protons fly off, some remain. If
they are lucky, they have enough
protons remaining to create a new

Transmutation is the changing of the
nucleus of the atom. This involves the
strong and weak forces of the atom,
which involve alpha and beta decay.
Both fission and fusion involve the nucleus
of the atom. In both cases a new atom is
formed since you are involving the
protons in the nucleus of the atom.
Fis/sion involves splitting the atom.
Fusion FuNion, UNION, results in the
union of two nuclei making one larger

Changing the Atom

It is important to remember that
if you change a proton of an
You can change the electrons
and neutrons, which will
change the characteristics of
the atom, but it still remains

Lets do a few practice problems to see
if you fully understand what you read.
An atom of Zr (40) undergoes two alpha
decays and a beta decay, then fission.
If the products are added to both Na
and to F, separately, what would be
the molarity if 300 grams of product
form (compound only)?

Alpha decay means there is a problem
with the STRONG FORCE, so you will
lose two protons and two neutrons for
each alpha decay. The atom will
change by two each time and the
mass will change by four.
Zr fission
So, two protons times 2=4 protons lost.
The new atom must be Kr(36)

The new atom must be Kr(36)
You also lose a mass of four each time, so
4x2 = 8 amu lost.
91-8 = 83 amu
Now, Beta Decay. One neutron will change
into a proton and eject an electron.
So, the atom Kr will now become
element 37, which is Rb.

Now that you have gotten this far, you

get to have your atom of Rb undergo
FISSION. Fission is the splitting of the
nucleus into two roughly equal parts.
Here is what happens: (there is NO
cool symbol for fission, so I will use
Rb Ar and K
Since Ar is a NOBLE GAS, it will not react,
regardless of the charge on K.
K1+ + F1- KF

K1+ + F1- KF
The mass of KF is the sum of K (what
we made, 42 and F, 19. So a mass of
Moles are grams/mmass so
300/61 = 4.91M\

The worst kind of DECAY, not

alpha or beta decay