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Types of Nuclear Reactions- Nuclear Reaction, Types-Nuclear Fusion and Nuclear Fission Reaction, Projectile Capture Reaction, Particle-Particle Reaction and Spallation Reaction, Practice Problems, FAQs

Types of Nuclear Reactions- Nuclear Reaction, Types-Nuclear Fusion and Nuclear Fission Reaction, Projectile Capture Reaction, Particle-Particle Reaction and Spallation Reaction, Practice Problems, FAQs

We wake up early in the morning to see the slow fading of darkness being replaced by the rays of bright sunlight pouring through the windows from the sun. Have you guessed how the sun gets its energy to light the entire world for billions of years?

Also, we plan our all outdoor work for either early in the morning or late in the evening, due to the fact that with time the temperature increases during the daytime.

Though the sun is very far from us still it has a sufficient amount of energy which makes us uncomfortable during the daytime. But how is the energy produced in the sun? A tremendous amount of energy is produced due to a very important reaction which occurs in the core of the sun which we named as nuclear fusion reaction. A miniature version of controlled nuclear reactions is carried out in a nuclear reactor to satisfy our energy demand.

Let us learn in this article about the different types of nuclear reactions which can occur.

Table of content

  • Introduction to Nuclear Reaction
  • Classification of Nuclear Reaction
  • Fusion Reaction
  • Nuclear Fission Reaction
  • Projectile Capture Reaction
  • Particle-Particle Reaction
  • Spallation Reaction
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction to Nuclear Reaction

Some heavy elements, such as radium, polonium, uranium, and thorium are unstable due to nuclear instability, The nuclei present in the element undergo decay to form smaller stable nuclei. releasing huge energy. Radioactivity is the process of spontaneous breakdown of an element's unstable nuclei to produce stable nuclei.

Nuclear reactions can also make to occur when the nuclei of atoms interact with the nuclei of elementary particles such as alpha particles, protons, neutrons, and so on. This results in the formation of a new nucleus and one or more elementary particles.

Let us consider the 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 the above nuclear reaction, beryllium combines with alpha particles to form carbon atoms along with the neutron atom.

The total number of nucleons and protons is conserved in all nuclear reactions, unlike a chemical reaction, which conserves the number of atoms of each element.

Classification of Nuclear Reactions

Nuclear reactions are generally classified as

  • Fusion reaction
  • Fission reaction
  • Projectile capture reaction
  • Particle-particle reaction
  • Spallation reaction

Fusion reaction:

The nuclear fusion reaction is defined as the nuclear reaction in which two lighter nuclei fuse together to form heavier nuclei. The product also produces subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons. The thermonuclear reaction is another name for this type of reaction.

Consider the example of deuterium (<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>1</mn><mn>2</mn></mmultiscripts></math>) and tritium fusing together to produce helium and neutrons, which release a tremendous amount 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 starts the reaction between deuterium (<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi mathvariant="normal">H</mi><mprescripts/><mn>1</mn><mn>2</mn></mmultiscripts></math>) and tritium ().

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 a million degrees celsius.

Nuclear Fission Reaction

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

The energy generated during the controlled nuclear fission reaction is used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants. The energy produced by the fission reaction converts water into steam, and the steam produced by this process is used to turn the turbine and generate electricity.

As an example, When 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>) is bombarded by a neutron, it splits into different types of products, which is an important example of a nuclear fission reaction.


<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>

Projectile-Capture Reaction

The target captures the small projectile, resulting in the formation of an unstable nucleus that achieves stability by emitting energy radiations with or without nuclear particles.

Cobalt, for example, absorbs a slow-moving neutron to give radioactive cobalt that emits high-energy rays to kill cancer cells is radiotherapy.

27Co59 +0n1 27Co60 +

Or the target particles may emit more than one particle also.

: 7N14 +0n1→6C14+1H1

Particle-Particle Reaction

Most nuclear reactions exhibit this type of reaction. In this type of reaction, stable elementary particles are emitted in addition to the stable nuclei present on the product side.

As an 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>

The letter "H" stands for the element hydrogen.

Spallation reaction

High-speed projectiles with energies of around 40 MeV may chip fragments from a heavy nucleus, leaving lighter and more stable nuclei behind.

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>

The letter "U" represents the uranium element.

The letter "n" stands for neutron.

The letter "H" stands for the element hydrogen.

Practice problems

Q1. Select the correct option for the type of reaction which occurs in the core of the sun.

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

Answer: (A)

Solution: Nuclear fusion 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 a million degrees celsius.

Q2. What applications do nuclear fission reactions have?

Solution: There are various types of applications in nuclear fission reactions, including:

  • It is used in the explosion of an atomic bomb.
  • It is employed in nuclear reactors.
  • It is used to generate electricity in power plants.
  • In radiotherapy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the different types of radiation associated with the nuclear reaction?

Answer: Generally there are three types of radiation associated with the nuclear reaction which include alpha rays, beta rays and gamma rays.

Alpha rays- It is made up of a stream of particles. They are doubly ionised helium nuclei with a charge of +2 and are denoted by the <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"><mmultiscripts><mi>He</mi><mprescripts/><mn>2</mn><mn>4</mn></mmultiscripts></math> symbol.

Beta rays- It is made up of a stream of particles. They are the same as electrons with a charge of -1 and are represented by <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>.

Gamma rays: rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation with a shorter wavelength than X-rays.

Q2. Why nuclear reaction is generally accompanied by the release of a tremendous amount of energy?

Answer: The mass of an atomic nucleus is less than the sum of the masses of the individual subatomic particles that comprise it (protons and neutrons). This mass difference is attributed to nuclear binding energy (often referred to as a mass defect). Nuclear binding energy is the amount of energy required to keep all of the protons and neutrons within the nucleus.

Q3. How do determine nuclear stability?

Answer: The nuclear stability is determined using the neutron-proton ratio (n/p). This ratio is almost one for atoms with small atomic numbers (less than 20 protons).

The n/p ratio progressively rises as the atomic number surpasses that of the element. The element with an atomic number between 84 and that of polonium is greater than calcium. Every element with an atomic number higher than 84 is unstable.

Q4. What is the application of the nuclear fission reaction?

Answer:Nuclear fusion reaction releases a tremendous amount of energy and is therefore used for different purposes like producing electricity in the nuclear power plant, atomic bomb explosion etc.

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