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Section 2: Isotopes and
Radioactive Elements
Lesson 15 Nuclear Quest
Lesson 16 Old Gold
Lesson 15: Nuclear Quest
Nuclear Reactions
ChemCatalyst
Using the Nuclear Quest game, find the ten kinds of cards shown below. Which cards
cause the nucleus of one element to change into the nucleus of a different element?
Key Question
What are nuclear reactions?
You will be able to:
•
•
explain the different processes involved in nuclear changes and the
conditions required for those processes
explain the connection between nuclear changes and changes in
atomic identity
Prepare for the Activity
Work in groups of four.
The goal of the game is to discover element 112 and name it. This is
accomplished by moving the nucleus through the entire periodic table.
Discussion Notes
Alpha Decay
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Beta Decay
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Nuclear chemistry is the study of changes to the nucleus.
Nuclear reaction: A process that involves changes to the nucleus of an
atom.
Radioactive decay: A spontaneous process by which an atom emits
radiation or a particle from its nucleus to become more stable.
Fusion: The joining of two nuclei to form a larger nucleus accompanied by a
release of energy.
Fission: The splitting apart of an atomic nucleus into two smaller nuclei
accompanied by a release of energy.
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Changes in the nucleus of an atom can change the identity of an element.
Alpha particle: A particle composed of two protons and two neutrons,
equivalent to the nucleus of a helium atom.
Beta particle: An electron emitted from the nucleus of an atom during
beta decay.
Gamma ray: A form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation emitted
during nuclear reactions.
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Nuclear changes frequently involve the transfer of large amounts of
energy.
Alpha decay: A nuclear reaction in which an
atom emits an alpha particle. Its atomic number decreases by 2, and its
mass number decreases
by 4.
Beta decay: A nuclear reaction in which a neutron changes into a proton,
and the atom emits a beta particle. The atom’s atomic number increases
by 1.
Wrap Up
What are nuclear reactions?
• Alpha decay results in a decrease in the atomic number by 2.
• Beta decay results in an increase in the atomic number by 1.
• Gamma radiation usually accompanies alpha and beta decay and also
fission. Gamma radiation can be quite harmful to humans.
Wrap Up (cont.)
• Nuclear fission involves a single nucleus breaking apart into two
smaller nuclei.
• Nuclear fusion involves two nuclei combining to form a nucleus with
a larger atomic number. Nuclear fusion takes place in extremely hot
environments, such as the cores of stars.
Lesson 16: Old Gold
Formation of Elements
ChemCatalyst
1. What patterns do you notice in the fusion reactions?
2. Do you think gold can be created on Earth by a fusion reaction?
Explain your thinking.
Key Question
How are new elements formed?
You will be able to:
•
•
•
explain how different elements are formed
through nuclear reactions
write a balanced nuclear equation
describe the mechanism behind a nuclear chain
reaction
Prepare for the Activity
Work individually.
You will need a copy of the periodic table and the isotope chart from
Lesson 14.
Discussion Notes
Nuclear processes can be written as nuclear equations.
During alpha decay, the nucleus of an atom emits a helium nucleus,
transforming the element into an element with a smaller nucleus.
During beta decay, a neutron inside the nucleus of an atom emits an
electron.
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Nuclear fusion involves the joining together of nuclei.
Fission involves a nucleus breaking up into smaller nuclei.
Nuclear reactions change the identity of an element.
Nuclear fusion produces bigger (heavier) elements from smaller (lighter)
ones.
Question 5
β
____
+
40
226
____
4
2He
+
238
_____
+
92U
140
20Ca
88Ra
57La
Discussion Notes
• Nuclear processes can be written as nuclear equations.
Beta particle
47
Ca g
20
 +
47
Sc
21
Alpha particle
238
U
92
g
 +
234
Th
90
Discussion Notes (cont.)
Nuclear Chain Reactions
Discussion Notes (cont.)
•
•
Nuclear fission is a process that releases enormous amounts of
energy.
Nuclear fission can result in a nuclear chain reaction that produces a
great deal of energy.
Discussion Notes (cont.)
• Fission = nucleus breaking up into
smaller nuclei.
• Nuclear reactions change the identity
of an element.
• Starting isotope = parent isotope
• Resulting isotope = daughter
isotope
• Nuclear fusion = produces bigger
(heavier) elements from smaller
(lighter) ones.
Nuclear Equations for Fusion
4
2He +
8
4Be
12
+
6C +
4
4
2He
8
4Be
2He
12
6C
4
16
8O
2He
Do you think gold can be created on earth by a fusion reaction? Explain your thinking.
Name
Particle
Charge
Alpha (helium
nucleus)
4
2He, α
Penetrating Ability
+2 (no electrons)
Beta (high energy
electron)
0 e, β
-1
-1
Moderate, Can be
stopped by wood,
aluminum foil
0
High, can only be
stopped by lead or thick
concrete
Gamma (high
energy photons)
γ
Weak, can be stopped
by paper or skin
Writing an equation for alpha decay
238
92U
α
+
234
90Th
Nucleus emits an alpha particle, transforming it
into a smaller nucleus
the greek letter α is used to represent a helium
nucleus
Writing an equation for beta decay
1
0n
0
-1e
1
+
1p
a neutron splits into an electron and a proton
140
56Ba
β
The mass remains the same
+
140
57La
Writing an equation for fission and
fusion
52 Cr
24
+ 42He
56 Fe
26
Fusion involves the joining together two nuclei
235 U
92
141 Ba
56
+
92 Kr
36
+ 10n + 10n
Fission involves a nucleus breaking up into smaller
nuclei
Wrap Up
How are new elements formed?
• Radioactive decay, nuclear fusion, and nuclear fission are all nuclear
processes that result in the creation of new elements.
• The mass of a nucleus changes when neutrons or protons are added or
lost.
• The identity of an element changes when its nucleus gains or loses
protons.
Wrap Up (cont.)
•
Radioactive decay happens in the natural world around us. Fission can
be spontaneous for unstable nuclei, or it can be provoked using nuclear
bombardment and other methods. Fusion of nuclei to form different
isotopes happens in the stars.
Check-in
In a paragraph, defend this statement:
If you want to find gold, your best bet is to dig “old” gold out of the
ground. Your chances of making “new” gold are slim.