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                                                               Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Fission

  • It is the phenomenon of splitting a heavy nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei.
  • 92U235 + 0n¹ ⇒ 56Ba141 + 36Kr92 + 30n¹ + Q
    • where, Q = 200 MeV (nuclear energy)
  • Nuclear reactor uses nuclear energy for peaceful purpose. It is based on phenomenon of controlled nuclear chain reaction.
  • Moderators like heavy water; graphite and deuterium slow down neutrons. Rods of cadmium or boron serve as control rods. Ordinary water and heavy water serve as coolants.

What is a nuclear reactor?

  • A nuclear reactor is a system that contains and controls sustained nuclear chain reactions.
  • Reactors are used for generating electricity, moving aircraft carriers and submarines, producing medical isotopes for imaging and cancer treatment, and for conducting research.
  • The first nuclear reactor was made by Fermi who used U235 as fuel.

Nuclear Physics - Physics | General Test Preparation for CUET

Critical Mass

  • The minimum mass of uranium needed to sustain chain reaction is called critical mass. Critical mass of uranium is 10 kg.
  • To form atom bomb two or more pieces of uranium or plutonium are used. The mass of each piece is less than the critical mass but combined mass is more than the critical mass.

Main components

  • The core of the reactor contains all of the nuclear fuel and generates all of the heat. It contains low-enriched uranium (<5% U-235), control systems, and structural materials. The core can contain hundreds of thousands of individual fuel pins.
  • The coolant is the material that passes through the core, transferring the heat from the fuel to a turbine. It could be water, heavy-water, liquid sodium, helium, or something else.
  • The turbine transfers the heat from the coolant to electricity, just like in a fossil-fuel plant.
  • The containment is the structure that separates the reactor from the environment. These are usually dome-shaped, made of high-density, steel-reinforced concrete.
  • Cooling towers are needed by some plants to dump the excess heat that cannot be converted to energy due to the laws of thermodynamics. These are the hyperbolic icons of nuclear energy. They emit only clean water vapour.

Nuclear Fusion

  • It is the phenomenon of fusing of two or more lighter nuclei to form a single heavy nucleus.
  • Mass defect in the process appears as energy.
  • 41H¹ ⇒ 2He4 + 2 (+1e0) + 26.7 MeV
    • Example Hydrogen bomb.
  • Fusion takes place at high temperature of 107 or 108 °C. The pressure required is also high.

Hydrogen Bomb

  • It is based on the phenomenon of nuclear fusion and was made in 1952 by American scientists.
  • The central core of a hydrogen bomb is a uranium (or plutonium) fission bomb which is surrounded by a compound of heavy hydrogen, like lithium hydride (LiH2).
  • When the fission bomb is exploded, it produces such a high temperature and pressure that the heavy – hydrogen nuclei come extremely close and fuse together, liberating huge energy.
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FAQs on Nuclear Physics - Physics - General Test Preparation for CUET

1. What is nuclear physics?
Ans. Nuclear physics is a branch of physics that studies the properties and behavior of atomic nuclei. It focuses on the structure, composition, and interactions of atomic nuclei, as well as the processes that occur within them, such as nuclear reactions and radioactive decay.
2. How does nuclear physics relate to other branches of physics?
Ans. Nuclear physics is closely related to other branches of physics, particularly particle physics and quantum mechanics. It provides insights into the fundamental particles and forces that govern the behavior of matter at the subatomic level. Additionally, nuclear physics plays a crucial role in astrophysics and cosmology, as it helps explain the processes occurring in stars, the origin of elements, and the evolution of the universe.
3. What are the applications of nuclear physics in our daily lives?
Ans. Nuclear physics has numerous practical applications in various fields. Some of these include nuclear power generation, where nuclear reactions are harnessed to produce electricity; nuclear medicine, which uses radioactive isotopes for diagnostic imaging and cancer treatment; and radiocarbon dating, which helps determine the age of archaeological artifacts and geological samples. Nuclear physics also contributes to materials science, environmental monitoring, and national security.
4. How do scientists study nuclear reactions and properties?
Ans. Scientists study nuclear reactions and properties through various experimental techniques. One common method is to accelerate particles, such as protons or heavy ions, to high energies and collide them with target nuclei. This allows researchers to investigate the behavior of nuclear matter under extreme conditions. Other techniques include spectroscopy, where the emitted radiation from excited nuclei is analyzed, and scattering experiments, which involve bombarding nuclei with particles and analyzing the scattered particles' trajectories.
5. What are the potential risks and challenges associated with nuclear physics research?
Ans. Nuclear physics research involves working with radioactive materials and high-energy particles, which can pose risks to human health and the environment if not properly handled. Controlling and managing radioactive waste is a significant challenge, as it requires long-term storage and disposal methods that ensure minimal impact on ecosystems and human populations. Additionally, the potential for nuclear accidents and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are important concerns that require stringent safety measures and international cooperation.
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