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Nuclear Chemistry- Definition, Types of Nuclear Reaction, Projectile Capture Reaction, Particle-Particle Reaction, Spallation Reaction, Nuclear Fusion Reaction & Nuclear Fission Reaction

Nuclear Chemistry- Definition, Types of Nuclear Reaction, Projectile Capture Reaction, Particle-Particle Reaction, Spallation Reaction, Nuclear Fusion Reaction & Nuclear Fission Reaction

Without the sun, life on the earth would not be able to exist. This is because every form of a living creature is dependent on solar energy in one form or another, the best example being the plants as they depend on solar energy for the preparation of food. It is so far from the earth and still able to send large amounts of heat and light. But do you know how this enormous energy is produced in the Sun? Probably you must be guessing right, it is due to the nuclear reactions in which hydrogen molecules combine together and release a tremendous amount of energy. Let’s learn about nuclear reactions and the type of nuclear reactions.

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Table of Contents

  • Definition of a Nuclear Reaction
  • Types of Nuclear Reaction
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Question - FAQs

Definition of a Nuclear Reaction

The reaction in which nuclei of atoms interact with other nuclei of elementary particles such as alpha particles, protons, neutrons etc. resulting in the formation of a new nucleus and one and more elementary particles are called nuclear reactions.

For example,

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi>B</mi><mprescripts/><mn>4</mn><mn>9</mn></mmultiscripts><mi>e</mi><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>2</mn><mn>4</mn></mmultiscripts><mi>e</mi><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">C</mi><mprescripts/><mn>6</mn><mn>12</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

In all the nuclear reactions the total number of neutrons and protons are conserved. Unlike the chemical reaction in which the number of atoms of each element is conserved. It is expressed in the same way as the normal chemical reaction in which the left side of the arrow represents the reactant and the right side of the arrow represents the product.

Types of Nuclear Reaction

There are different types of nuclear reactions which include:

  • Projectile Capture Reaction
  • Particle-Particle Reaction
  • Spallation Reaction
  • Nuclear Fusion Reaction
  • Nuclear Fission Reaction

Projectile capture reaction: The projectile is captured by the target, resulting in the formation of an unstable nucleus that achieves stability through the emission of nuclear particles. The bombarding particles are generally absorbed by rays emission.

As an illustration:

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>238</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>239</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mi mathvariant="normal">&#x3B3;</mi></math>

In this case, "n" represents the neutron particle.

Uranium is represented by the letter "U."

representing the gamma radiation emitted in the nuclear reaction

Particle-particle reaction: This type of reaction is seen in most nuclear reactions. In this type of reaction, in addition to the stable nuclei present on the product side, elementary particles are also emitted.

For example: <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi>N</mi><mprescripts/><mn>11</mn><mn>23</mn></mmultiscripts><mi>a</mi><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>2</mn><mn>4</mn></mmultiscripts><mi>e</mi><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>Mg</mi><mprescripts/><mn>12</mn><mn>26</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>1</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

Here, “H” represents the symbol of the hydrogen element.

Spallation reaction: High-speed projectiles with the energy of approximately 40 MeV or more may chip fragments from a heavy nucleus leaving behind lighter and stable nuclei. This type of nuclear reaction is called a spallation reaction.

Example: <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>238</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>He</mi><mprescripts/><mn>2</mn><mn>4</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">W</mi><mprescripts/><mn>74</mn><mn>187</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mn>20</mn><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>1</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mn>35</mn><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

Here, “U” represents the symbol of uranium element

“n” represents the symbol of neutron

“H” represents the symbol of hydrogen element

“W” represents the tungsten element

Nuclear Fusion Reaction

Nuclear fusion reaction is defined as the nuclear reaction in which two light nuclei fuse to form heavier nuclei. Subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons are also produced by the product. This type of reaction is also known as a thermonuclear reaction.

Consider the fusion of deuterium (12H) and tritium (13H) to produce helium and neutrons, which release enormous amounts of energy and are exothermic in nature due to the loss of mass that occurs when heavier nuclei are formed from two lighter nuclei. The massive amount of energy released during an atomic bomb explosion initiates the deuterium (12H) and tritium (13H) reactions.

Note: This reaction takes place in the core of the sun where hydrogen nuclei are fused to form helium nuclei. The temperature in the core of the sun is nearly 15 a million degrees celsius.

Nuclear Fission Reaction

Nuclear fission reaction was discovered in 1938 by two German scientists, Fritz Strassmann and Otto Hahn. It refers to the splitting of heavier nuclei into two or more lighter nuclei in radioactive decay. It produces enormous amounts of energy and is accompanied by neutron and gamma-ray emissions.

One of the important examples of a nuclear fission reaction is the splitting of uranium-235 (<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts></math> ) when bombarded by the neutron, it forms different types of products.

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>Te</mi><mprescripts/><mn>52</mn><mn>137</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>Zr</mi><mprescripts/><mn>40</mn><mn>97</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mn>2</mn><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mi>Energy</mi><mspace linebreak="newline"/><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>Cs</mi><mprescripts/><mn>55</mn><mn>137</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>Rb</mi><mprescripts/><mn>37</mn><mn>96</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mn>3</mn><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">n</mi><mprescripts/><mn>0</mn><mn>1</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

The energy released during the nuclear fission reaction is used to power nuclear power plants. The energy produced by the fission reaction converts water into steam, which is then used to turn the turbine and generate electricity.

Practice Problems

Q. Select the correct option to classify the given nuclear reaction.

  1. Nuclear fusion reaction
  2. Spallation reaction
  3. Nuclear fission reaction
  4. Both A and C

Answer: (A)

The reaction mentioned above is an example of a nuclear fission reaction in which the splitting of heavier nuclei takes place into two or more lighter nuclei in radioactive decay. It produces enormous amounts of energy and is accompanied by neutron and gamma-ray emissions. In the above reaction, the uranium-235 (<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts></math> ) when bombarded by the neutron produces tellurium and zirconium respectively.

Q. Select the correct option with respect to a nuclear fusion reaction.

  1. An enormous amount of energy is released and is exothermic in nature
  2. Nuclear fusion reaction takes place in the core of the sun
  3. It generally results in the formation of heavier nuclei from two lighter nuclei
  4. All of the above is correct

Answer: (D)

Solution: Nuclear fusion reactions occur in the core of the sun in which lighter nuclei combine to form heavier nuclei which are exothermic in nature and release an enormous amount of energy.

Q. Select the correct option with respect to the nuclear reaction.

  1. Product in the nuclear reaction is identified by conserving the number of neutrons and protons.
  2. Nuclear reaction generally takes place when unstable nuclei interact with elementary particles like an alpha particle, proton, neutron etc.
  3. Energy produced during the nuclear fission reaction is used in the generation of electricity in nuclear power plant
  4. All of the above

Answer: (D)

Solution: Nuclear reaction generally takes place when unstable nuclei interact with the elementary particles like an alpha particle, proton, neutron etc. In this type of reaction, the number of neutrons and number of protons is conserved on both sides of the nuclear reaction and helps to identify the product of the reaction.

A large amount of energy is released during the nuclear fission reaction. The energy released during the nuclear fission reaction can be used to power nuclear power plants. The energy produced by the fission reaction converts water into steam, which is then used to turn the turbine and generate electricity.

Q. Select the correct option for the atomic number and symbol of the element formed when Cobalt-60 disintegrated by the emission of beta particles?

  1. 30, Zn
  2. 28, Ni
  3. 29, Cu
  4. 27, Co

Answer: (B)

Solution: Let the symbol of the element be M with atomic number Z and mass number A.

According to the question, beta particle emission takes place i.e., ( <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">e</mi><mprescripts/><mrow><mo>-</mo><mn>1</mn></mrow><mn>0</mn></mmultiscripts></math>)

Therefore nuclear reaction may be written as,

<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi>Co</mi><mprescripts/><mn>27</mn><mn>60</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>&#x2192;</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">M</mi><mprescripts/><mi mathvariant="normal">Z</mi><mi mathvariant="normal">A</mi></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mo>+</mo><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">e</mi><mprescripts/><mrow><mo>-</mo><mn>1</mn></mrow><mn>0</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

Since the sum of mass number and atomic number should be equal on both the sides of the reaction,

Therefore,

Z=27+1=28

A=60

Using the periodic table to find the element with atomic number 28 is Nickel (Ni).

Frequently Asked Questions-FAQs

Q. Explain the working of the atom bombs?
Answer:
The working of the atom bomb is based on an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. The shape and size of fissionable material are adjusted such that it reaches the over-critical stage and due to high surface area loss of neutrons takes place. Generally <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi>U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mi>a</mi><mi>n</mi><mi>d</mi><mo>&#xA0;</mo><mmultiscripts><mi>P</mi><mprescripts/><mn>84</mn><mn>239</mn></mmultiscripts><mi>o</mi></math> are taken as fissionable material.

Q. What are the different types of nuclear fuel used in nuclear reactors?
Answer:
Nuclear fuel used in the nuclear reactor is of two types:

  • Fissile material: It is defined as the material on bombardment with slow-moving neutrons that starts the chain reaction and produces a tremendous amount of energy. For example radioactive material like <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>235</mn></mmultiscripts></math>
  • Fertile material: Is a type of radioactive material which is itself not fissile in nature but can be made fissile by reaction with neutron like <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">U</mi><mprescripts/><mn>92</mn><mn>238</mn></mmultiscripts></math>

Q. What is the scope of nuclear energy in India?
Answer:
In India, nuclear power is the fifth-largest source of electricity and 13th in the world after thermal, gas, hydropower and wind energy. India has 22 nuclear power plants which have tremendous potential to solve the energy crisis in the future.

Q. What is artificial radioactivity?
Answer:
In 1934, it was observed that when boron and aluminium are bombarded with particles neutron, proton and positron were emitted. When the bombardment was stopped neutron and proton emissions ceased but the emission of positrons decreased exponentially. Artificial radioactivity is defined as the process in which a stable isotope is converted into radioactive elements and is known as artificial radioactivity.

Q. What is the difference between a nuclear reaction and the chemical reaction?
Answer:
The difference between nuclear reaction and chemical reaction includes that in the case of nuclear reaction rate of reaction is independent of external factors such as temperature, pressure and catalyst whereas in the case of chemical reaction rate of reaction is influenced by the external factors. In a nuclear reaction, it is accompanied by the release or absorption of a tremendous amount of energy. In contrast, in the case of a chemical reaction generally, it is accompanied by a comparatively less amount of energy released in some type of chemical reaction.

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