What is Nuclear Reaction?

Nuclear reaction in physics and nuclear chemistry is the type of natural splitting of heavy nuclei accompanied by the emission or splitting of particles like alpha, beta, gamma in the form of energy. Nuclear scientists find ways of artificial radioactive decay of stable periodic table elements. Rutherford in 1919 showed that alpha-ray bombardment on nitrogen produces an isotope of oxygen and proton. The process of nuclear fission and fusion is given below the picture,

Nuclear reactions like fission or fusion reaction involve splitting of particles from atomic nucleus in energy radiation

In learning chemistry, nuclear reactions are different from chemical reactions in many respects. The outer orbital electrons have participated in the chemical reaction and atomic nuclei have participated in the nuclear reaction.

Types of nuclear reaction

Apart from the above natural or artificial radioactivity, nuclear fission, and fusion are the other two types of reaction.

Bohr in 1936 suggested that nuclear reactions are the two-stage processes. The atomic number of the produced nucleus must be the sum of the atomic number of target and projectile atoms. The produced nucleus subsequently splits down into new products that are energetically feasible.

The mass number of the compound nucleus is the sum of the mass numbers of the initial particles and also the sum of the mass numbers of final products in a nuclear reaction. But the total atomic masses would not remain constant.

When the total atomic mass of the products is less than the initial participants of nuclear reactions, energy will be given out. It may be calculated from the Einstein equation, E = mc2.

Examples of Artificial Transmutation

In 1934, Irene and Frederick Joliot-Curie study the artificial transmutation reaction for chemical elements. By bombardment of alpha particles on certain light isotopes produce several radioactive isotopes of low mass number.

For example, aluminum target bombardment by alpha particles produces phosphorus isotope by artificial transmutation.

Not only alpha-particles but other accelerated particles like protons, neutrons, and deuterons are extensively used to obtain artificial radioactive elements. Some examples of nuclear reactions are given below the table,

Projectile Transmutation Type
Alpha 3Li7 + 2He45B10 + 0n1 α, n
5B11 + 2He47N14 + 0n1
Neutron 13Al27 + 0n1  → 11Na24 + 2He4 n, α
26Fe56 + 0n1  → 25Mn56 + 1H1 n, p
19K39 + 0n1  → 19K38 + 20n1 n, 2n
Proton 3Li7 + 1H1 → 22He4 p, α
6C12 + 1H17N13 + γ p, γ
Deuterium 13Al27 + 1D214Si28 + 0n1 d, n
4Be5 + 1D24Be10 + 1H1 d, p
Gamma rays 1H2 + hν → 1H1 + 0n1 γ, p
6C12 + hν → 4Be8 + 2He4 γ, α

Artificial radioactive elements behave in the same fashion as natural radioactive elements. The radioactive decay of these elements follows the first-order rate law of chemical kinetics.

Nuclear Fission and Fusion

For more details about nuclear fission of nuclear fusion, read the following topics,

Nuclear fission, radioactive decay reaction where heavy nucleus (uranium or plutonium) of atom subdivided or split into two or more smaller, lighter nuclei

Nuclear Fission

What is nuclear fission? Nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction where a heavy nucleus of an atom is split spontaneously to produce two or more smaller...
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Nuclear Fusion

What is nuclear fusion? Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction where very light nuclei of chemical elements could be joined or fused to form heavier...

What is Nuclear Fission?

All the artificial and natural nuclear reactions involved small changes in mass or atomic number. These changes either increase mass by the absorption of particles or decrease mass by the emission of particles.

The disintegration of heavy nuclei breaks up into two nuclei of comparable masses is called nuclear fission. The energy released in the fission of nuclei originates from the loss of mass occurring in the process.

What is Nuclear Fusion?

On the other hand, if the light nuclei would be joined or fused together, there would be a loss of mass. Such a fusion process would lead to the liberation of energy. For example, if two protons and two neutrons would be fused in a nuclear reaction, the loss of mass is converted into energy which is very high.

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