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Chapter 3
Terms: activity, half life, average life
The Fundamentals of Nuclear
Nuclear disintegration schemes
Physics Parent-daughter relationships
Radiation Dosimetry I Activation of isotopes

Text: H.E Johns and J.R. Cunningham, The

physics of radiology, 4th ed.

Natural radioactivity Activity

Activity number of disintegrations per unit time;
Particles inside a nucleus are in constant motion; directly proportional to the number of atoms
can escape if acquire enough energy present
Most lighter atoms with Z<82 (lead) have at least
N Average
one stable isotope A N N 0 e t / t a lifetime
All atoms with Z > 82 are radioactive and t
disintegrate until a stable isotope is formed ta= 1.44 th
Artificial radioactivity: nucleus can be made A N 0 e 0.693t / th
A0 2 t / t h
unstable upon bombardment with neutrons, high Half-life
energy protons, etc.
Units: Bq = 1/s, Ci=3.7x 1010 Bq

Activity Activity

Emitted radiation

Example 1 Example 1A
A prostate implant has a half-life of 17 days.
A prostate implant has a half-life of 17 days. If the
What percent of the dose is delivered in the first
initial dose rate is 10cGy/h, what is the total dose
N N delivered?
2 t / th or e t Dtotal D 0tavg
A. 0.5 N 0 N 0

A. 9
0.693t 0.693t
B. 2 2 t / th 2 1/17 0.96 B. 29 Dtotal D 0 e

dt D 0 e

C. 4 0.693 0
D. 15 e 0.693t / th e 0.6931/17 0.96 C. 59 0

E. 30
D. 75 D 0t avg 0 1 D 0t avg
Delivered : 4% E. 300
Gy 17d h
10 10 2 24 59Gy
h 0.693 d

Decay schemes
Example 2
Initial activity of an 123I sample (th = 13 h) injected A decay (disintegration)
in the blood is 480 MBq. After 12 h measured scheme depicts possible
activity is 20 MBq / l. Assuming the volume of the routes of radioactive
blood is 6 l find biological half-life, h. decay for a nuclide:
A. 4 A0 480 / 6 80 M Bq/l 1) a decay
B. 6
C. 9 A1 A0 2
t / t eff
; A1 / A0 1 / 4 2 2 2) b+ (positron) decay or
electron capture
D. 11 teff 6 h
E. 13 3) b- (negatron) decay
1 / teff 1 / t I 1 / tb 4) isomeric transition
1 1
tb 11 h Hendee, Ritenour, Medical imaging physics, 4th edition, fig. 3-1, p.29

1 / teff 1 / t I 1 / 6 1 / 13

Alpha disintegrations Beta disintegrations

Emission of helium nucleus, mainly from Ejection of positive or negative electron
heavy nuclei
Positron (b+) or negatron (b-) emitters
Proton-rich nucleus emits positron,
neutron-rich emits electron
b emission : n p b ~ Z increases by 1
b emission : p n b Z decreases by 1

In beta-minus emission an antineutrino is emitted instead of neutrino. They have

opposite helicity (projection of spin on direction of momentum)

Beta disintegrations Beta disintegrations
The ejected beta particle shares its energy with
Co-60 decay scheme: neutrino (anti-neutrino), and therefore may have
energy in a continuous spectrum up to Emax
Energy is released in
transitions from
excited levels of Ni-60
to the ground state via
emission of gamma
rays (average g-ray
energy 1.25MeV)

Image from https://www.boundless.com

Beta disintegrations Electron capture

In the production of isotopes in a nuclear reactor a
neutron is usually added to a stable nucleus,
Z X Z A1 Q
resulting in b- emitters
Orbital electron can be captured by nucleus
Example: to produce 60Co a neutron is added to 59Co
Particle accelerators (more expensive) produce p + e (usually K electron) n +
b+ emitters
Since 2m0c2=1.022 MeV energy is required to This process is competing with positron emission
produce electron-positron pair this is the minimum in proton-rich nuclei
difference between the initial and final energy The only process when the energy difference
(parent-daughter) for b+ emitters between the initial and final state <1.022 MeV

Isomeric transitions:
Isomeric transitions Photon emission
Isomeric transitions: no Technetium is predominantly an artificially produced
change in A or Z radioactive metal. Example: 9942Mo (th=66.7 hours)
Always preceded by another produced in nuclear reactors by b- decay to 99m43Tc
transition, leaving nucleus in All isotopes are radioactive, most common: 9943Tc (th=
excited state 210,000 years) and 99m43Tc (th= 6 hours)
Energy is released by 99mTc is widely used
Emission of a photon as a tracer for medical diagnosis (g of 140 keV is detected
Internal conversion with gamma-camera)
Metastable state: an excited functional scans of brain, bone, liver, spleen, kidney, thyroid
Simplified radioactive decay scheme for 99Mo
Hendee, Ritenour, Medical imaging physics, 4th edition, fig. 3-7 state with the lifetime >10-6 s for blood flow studies

Isomeric transitions:
Internal conversion Auger electron production
A hole in K, L, or M shell has to be filled
Nucleus relaxes to the ground state The relative probability of the emission of characteristic
Alternatively to a g-ray emission an orbital radiation to the emission of the Auger electron is called
fluorescence yield
electron may be ejected with the energy E= g -Eb
Fluorescence yield is higher for larger Z

Charts of isotopes Decay series

Almost all the radioactive isotopes of the lighter
elements achieve stability by keeping their mass
number constant, through beta decay or K capture
Decay is usually along an isobaric line (constant
mass number) and often involves a number of
successive transitions before stability is reached

Isobaric line for mass number 90

Nuclear transformations Example 3

A Z Energy deposition
a disintegration -4 -2 Total energy of a particle The mass number (A) changes only for
b- decay 0 +1 Emean~1/3 Emax
____ decay:
b+ decay 0 -1 Emean~1/3 Emax and
Eg=1.02 MeV
Electron capture 0 -1 Most energy carried away by ; A. alpha
EFluorescence and/or EAuger B. beta minus
Isomeric transitions 0 0
C. beta plus
g ray 0 0 Eg available
D. electron capture
Internal conversion 0 0 Eelectron=Eg-Eb E. isomeric
EFluorescence and/or EAuger

Example 4 Growth of radioactive daughter
99 -> 99m43Tc -> 9943Tc
42Mo Radioactive daughter is formed at the rate at
I II which the parent decays (1), and itself decays
with a different rate (2)
In the above decay of molybdenum, the modes of
decay labeled (I) and (II) are, respectively:
dN 2
1 N1 2 N 2
A. beta minus, isomeric transition dt
N1 )0 e t e t
B. isomeric transition, beta minus
C. beta plus, isomeric transition Solution: N2 1 2

D. beta minus, beta minus 2 1

E. electron capture, beta minus

Growth of radioactive daughter

Growth of radioactive daughter
Express the same solution for activity A2 A1
2 1

A2 A1
2 1
1 e( )t 2 1

For a special case of 2>>1 can simplify to

A2 A1 1 e 2t
After some time reach a state of parent-daughter
equilibrium, where A1=A2

Activation of isotopes
Example 5
Atomic nuclei can be activated by neutron
After ____ hours, 99mTc will be approximately in bombardment with the probability dependent on
radioactive equilibrium with its parent element the interaction cross section s
99Mo. (Half-lives are: 67 hours for 99Mo and 6 Number of activated atoms:
hours for 99mTc.)
A2 A1 2
1 e ( 2 1 ) t
N Ntst
A. 6 2 1
B. 24 1
A2 A1 1 e ( 2 1 )t 1 s ~ 10-24 cm2
C. 48 2
D. 54 1 1 0.693 0.693
t ln ; 1 ; 2
E. 268 1 2 2 t h1 th 2
1 67
t ln 10 x 2.4 24 h
0.7 / 6 0.7 / 70 6

Activation of isotopes Example 6
More practically relevant quantity is the activity of What is the activity of a 20 g sample of 59Co
the irradiated sample A N Nts t irradiated in a neutron flux of 1014 neutrons/(cm2s)
for 6 years? Cross section s=36 barns, th=5.3 years.
If the bombardment
time t >> th, activity First find the number of atoms in the target
reaches its maximum Nt

2.04 1023
As Nts M / N A 59 /( 6.02 1023 )

Accounting for decay The activity at a time t:

during irradiation: )
A N ts 1 e 0.693t / th
A As 1 e0.693t / th )
1014 2.04 1023 36 1024 1 e 0.6936 / 5.3 4.0 1014 Bq

Nuclear fission and fusion Summary

Nuclear fission a nucleus is split into lighter Terms: activity, half life, average life
fragments with release of very large energy.
Nuclear disintegration schemes
Parent-daughter relationships
Activation of isotopes
Nuclear fusion two lighter atoms are fused into a
heavier one also with release of energy. Example:
~3.3 MeV