Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 22






The composition of the nucleus of an atom

Matter is made up of very small particles called atom. Each atom
has a very small and very dense core called nucleus.Most of the
mass of atom is contained in the nucleus. The electrons move in
orbits around the nucleus. A nucleus consists of number of proton
and neutrons. Proton and neutrons also known as nucleons. A
proton has a unit of positive charges. A neutron is an uncharged
particles of about the same mass of the proton. An atom is neutral
because it contains an equal number of negatively charged
electrons. So the net charged is zero.
The proton number (Z)
The proton number is defined as the number of protons in the
nucleus. The number of electrons is equal to the number of
protons. An element is identified by its proton number.

Nucleon number(A)
Nucleon number is defined as the total number of protons and
neutrons in a nucleus.

Number of neutrons(N) = A-Z

Nuclide and its notation

A nuclide is a type of atom whose nuclei have specific numbers of
protons and neutrons (both are called nucleons). Therefore,
nuclides are composite particles of nucleons.

According to the standard model, up and down quarks are the basic
components of nucleons. Thus, nuclides can also be considered
composite particles of quarks

The term isotopes is often used to mean nuclides, because a

nuclide is usually an isotope of an element. Strictly speaking,
isotopes are atoms with the same number of protons but different
number of neutrons in their nuclei.

Notation for a nuclide

The notation for a nuclide with mass number A and atomic number
Z is representd by a symbol of its element E.

Notation of a nuclide

For example
Stable and Unstable Nuclides
There are stable and radioactive nuclides. Stable nuclides exist for
an indefinite period of time, and they are the constituents of
ordinary material. Unstable nuclides emit subatomic particles, with
a, b, g, n, p being the most common. Few undergo nuclear fission.
However, unstable nuclides with long half-lives are also present in

Stable nuclides are not radioactive. They remain unchanged for an

indefinite period.

Unstable nuclides are radioactive, and they emit alpha, beta,

gamma, or proton and they eventually convert to stable nuclides.

The study of nuclides is an experimental and observatory science.

It involves data gathering, classification, organization, observation,
and theorization about nature.

Atoms of the same element can have different numbers of
neutrons; the different possible versions of each element are called
isotopes. For example, the most common isotope of hydrogen has
no neutrons at all; there's also a hydrogen isotope called
deuterium, with one neutron, and another, tritium, with two

Hydrogen Deuterium Tritium

As a result of their having different numbers of neutrons, an
element's isotopes differ in mass. Atomic mass has very little
bearing on chemical reactions; therefore the chemical reactions of
an element's different isotopes are almost identical.

The physical properties of atoms, however, do depend on mass.

This enables isotopes to be separated from one another by methods
such as diffusion and fractional distillation.

Isotopes of an element contain the same number of proton and the

same number of electron. So isotopes have the same chemical
properties. However they have different physical properties
because their mass is different. Some isotopes exist naturally and
some of them can also be made artificially.


An unstable nucleus spontaneously emits particles and energy in a

process known as radioactive decay. The term radioactivity
refers to the particles emitted. When enough particles and energy
have been emitted to create a new, stable nucleus radioactivity

Radioactive emissions
Alpha Radiation

Alpha rays have the least penetrating power, move at a slower

velocity than the other types, and are deflected slightly by a
magnetic field in a direction that indicates a positive charge.

Beta Radiation

Beta rays are more penetrating than alpha rays, move at a very
high speed, and are deflected considerably by a magnetic field in a
direction that indicates a negative charge

Gamma Radiation

Gamma rays have very great penetrating power and are not
affected at all by a magnetic field. They move at the speed of light
and have a very short wavelength (or high frequency); thus they
are a type of electromagnetic radiation
Radioactive decay
Alpha Decay

The reason alpha decay occurs is because the nucleus has too
many protons which cause excessive repulsion. In an attempt
to reduce the repulsion, a Helium nucleus is emitted. The
way it works is that the Helium nuclei are in constant
collision with the walls of the nucleus and because of its
energy and mass, there exists a nonzero probability of
transmission. That is, an alpha particle (Helium nucleus) will
tunnel out of the nucleus. Here is an example of alpha
emission with americium-241:

Alpha Decay of Americium-241 to Neptunium-237. Adapted from Alpha

Beta Decay

Beta decay occurs when the neutron to proton ratio is too

great in the nucleus and causes instability. In basic beta
decay, a neutron is turned into a proton and an electron. The
electron is then emitted. Here's a diagram of beta decay with

Alpha Decay of Hydrogen-3 to Helium-3. Adapted from

Stability of Nuclei.

Gamma Decay

Gamma decay occurs because the nucleus is at too high an

energy. The nucleus falls down to a lower energy state and,
in the process, emits a high energy photon known as a
gamma particle. Here's a diagram of gamma decay with

Gamma Decay of Helium-3

Example of use equations to represent changes in the

compositions of the nucleus when particles are emitted
Half life
Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing
decay to decrease by half. The name originally was used to
describe a characteristic of unstable atoms (radioactive decay), but
may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.
The time required for half the nuclei in a sample of a specific
isotopic species to undergo radioactive decay.

The only thing which can alter the half-life is direct nuclear
interaction with a particle from outside, e.g., a high energy
collision in an accelerator.

Determine half life from a decay curve

Once an atom has decayed, it is no longer that type of atom. (The

carbon atom that decays is no longer a carbon atom.) If we start
with a certain number of atoms - say 100 million of them, then
after a certain period we will notice that the number of atoms
remaining is decreasing. The number remaining depends on how
stable the atom is (or isn't)! We end up with a graph which curves
down towards zero.
Decay graph

This remarkable graph halves in equal time intervals called

Example of solve problems involving half lives

PROBLEM; Strontium - 90 has a half-life of 28.1 years. A sample has an

initial activity of 400 MBq . What will be the activity after 92 years?


From the graph, about 38 MBq. OR (not on syllabus )

Using the formula, let No = 400MBq , T1/2 = 28.1 years , t = 92 years.

Using N= N0

]= 400

= 400

= 400 = 41.3 MBq

The formula is more precise than the graph and gives the activity at 41.3

Greater precision could be gained using the graph if, say, the graph was
recalibrated for after two half lives, starting at 100 MBq, then looking up a
time of (93 - 56.2 ) years. One could do this because the SHAPE of the
graph does NOT change despite starting point or calibration in half-life.


Many of the chemical elements have a number of isotopes. The

isotopes of an element have the same number of protons in their
atoms (atomic number) but different masses due to different
numbers of neutrons. In an atom in the neutral state, the number of
external electrons also equals the atomic number. These electrons
determine the chemistry of the atom. The atomic mass is the sum
of the protons and neutrons. There are 82 stable elements and
about 275 stable isotopes of these elements.
When a combination of neutrons and protons, which does not
already exist in nature, is produced artificially, the atom will be
unstable and is called a radioactive isotope or radioisotope. There
are also a number of unstable natural isotopes arising from the
decay of primordial uranium and thorium.
Overall there are some 3800 radioisotopes. At present there are up
to 200 radioisotopes used on a regular basis, and most must be
produced artificially
Example of radioisotopes

The nucleus of a radioactive isotope spontaneously decomposes,

emitting a particle (such as a proton, neutron, alpha particle, etc...)
and electromagnetic radiation (such as gamma rays). Because of
the loss of nuclear particles, the element in question can turn into a
new element.

Consider the example of carbon-14, which is radioactive and

undergoes radioactive decay and changes from carbon-14 to
nitrogen-14, while emitting an electron and an anti-neutrino.

Applications of radioisotopes

Stable isotopes are tools used by researchers worldwide in the

diagnosis of disease, to understand metabolic pathways in humans,
and to answer fundamental questions in nature. They help
researchers find answers by allowing them to look at a problem in
a new way, from a different perspective. They help to better
understand a process, trace a compound from a particular source,
measure the concentration of a chemical in a sample, or measure
the rate of a related process. Stable isotopes already play an
important role in research today and will become even more
important to research in the future.