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Radioactive Elements

Some elements are not stable in nature and continually emitted radiation which are known as radioactive radiations. Because of the emission of radiation, the radioactive element converts in small elements.

Generally elements with more number of protons and neutrons i.e. high atomic number show such type of disintegration which also termed as radioactive decay or nuclear decay. Elements with high atomic number like uranium, polonium etc are unstable due to electrostatic repulsion between protons located in a small region of nucleus, hence disintegrated in small element for getting stability.

Radioactive decay releases some amount of energy in the form of radiation like alpha rays, beta rays or gamma rays.

Radioactive Decay

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Applications of Radioactivity in industry

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From early sixties to till now we can observe a phenomenal growth in the application of radioactive isotopes in medicine, industry and research. With the growth of uses of radioactive isotopes, there is parallel growth observed in the use of X-ray in the form of X-rays machines.

The radioactive elements widely used different industries like medical, power plants, in quality control of materials, measuring the level of containers and in monitoring the thickness or consistency of paper. Let’s discuss some of the applications.
  1. Uses of nuclear energy - Nuclear reactions like nuclear fusion and nuclear fission release enormous amount of energy which can be used for different purpose like in the production of electricity which is much more efficient compare to thermal power plants.
  2. New fundamental particles - During nuclear fusion and nuclear fission, many fundamental particles like neutrons, positrons, deuteron, alpha particles produced due to fission and non-fission reactions. These particles are used in artificial transmutation of elements and adding to our knowledge of atomic structure.
  3. Discovery of isotopes and isobars - Natural radioactive series involve many new isotope and isobars which were first discovered in these series only and were afterwards looked for amongst non-radioactive elements.
  4. Discovery of new elements - The trans uranic elements with the atomic number higher than 92 are highly unstable and not exist in nature. Many radioactive elements discovered during different nuclear reactions of radioactive elements.
  5. Used as Radioactive tracer - A number of radioactive isotopes are used in tracing various process in biology and agriculture industries. In this tracer technique, a radioactive isotope or its compound inserted at one point of the system and its movement traced by measuring radioactivity in different parts of the system. Such radioactive compounds are known as radioactive tracer. For example, for detecting the circulation of blood during surgery a radioactive isotope is injected into body and after suitable time the flow of blood detected by using Geiger-Muller counter. Radioactive isotopes of carbon and hydrogen are used to detect the path of nutrients into plants. Radioactive iodine used in detection of activity of thyroid gland. Radioactive isotope of phosphorus (P-34) used to detect the absorption of phosphorus by bones in case of bone fracture.
  6. In agriculture - In agriculture the tracer technique is used for the uptake of phosphorus by plants by using the radioactive phosphorus.
  7. In metal industries - Metal castings are tested for cracks by putting them in radioactive salt baths. The castings are inspected afterwards for radioactivity to find out if penetration of the salts into the cracks has taken place or not.
  8. Rock dating - The natural radioactive series of Uranium-235 forms lead-206 as a stable product. Hence by using mass spectrograph, it is possible to determine the ratio of the amount of uranium to that of lead in a given rock. By estimating the overall rate of disintegration of uranium to lead, it is possible to calculate the age of mineral which give an approximate idea of age of earth. The age of earth calculated by rock dating gives the idea about the minimum age of earth.
  9. Carbon dating - This technique is developed by Willard F.Libby in 1960. In this technique the radioactive isotope of carbon(C-14) is used to estimate the age of earth and for the estimation of age of fossils. The half life for C-14 is around 5568 years.
6C14 7N14 +beta particles
7N14 +0n1
6C14 +1H1

As a result of these two reactions; the quantity of C-14 and carbon dioxide (12CO2) present in the atmosphere has been constant over long periods of years. This C-14 has been consumed by plants as well as by other living organism and remains constant for a long time, hence can be detected easily.

When plant and living organism die, they are not taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the carbon content accumulated in body now begins to decay. By measuring the decay rate of the sample of the dead matter at any period later on, it is possible to estimate the death time of the living body.

The energy used to sustain the nuclear fission to generate heat which further used to generate electricity. All nuclear power plants around the world provide about 6% energy and 13–14% of electricity. About 50% of nuclear power electricity is generated in U.S., Japan and France.

Compare to other energy production techniques, nuclear power is good enough but in security mode only. The nuclear power plants are much more efficient than thermal power plant for the generation of electricity. The nuclear power represented by given sign.

Nuclear power generated in nuclear power plant where nuclear reaction generates a large amount of energy. The fuel used for nuclear reaction is generally some radioactive elements or their compounds in small quantity. There is very less amount of side product produces in nuclear reaction. No doubt the initial setup for nuclear reactor is very expensive but further maintenance and security is cost effective compare to convectional thermal power plants. Nuclear Power

Out of nuclear fission and fusion, fusion generate more nuclear power and with the research of more safety improvements, it can be used in the future.

Electricity Production Costs

Compare to all other fuels for the production of electricity like oil, gas and coal, nuclear power is much more cost effective as a very small amount of fuel produce a large amount of energy. That is the reason why nuclear power is the second largest sources of electric power after coal.

Nuclear power is a pollutant free fuel and helps to reduce the level of carbon dioxide gas in atmosphere which indirectly helps to reduced the green house effect.

Contribution to CO2 Emission Reduction

Hence, nuclear power is a safe and large energy source which helps to reduce pollution in atmosphere as well as green house effect. Apart from this it is a cost effective process to generate electricity without the fear of fuel shortage. Because of all these advantages, the use of nuclear power is going to increases.
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Gamma Ray Analysis

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Gamma rays analysis is the quantitative analysis of energy spectra of gamma rays emitted from the gamma rays source. Gamma rays are type of electromagnetic radiation associated with high energy and high frequency (low wave length). The count rate of radioactive rays; gamma rays can be detect by using Geiger-Muller counter, while a gamma-ray spectrometer used to determine the energies of the gamma-rays photons emitted by the source as well as count rates that is the number of gamma rays interacting in the detector per second.

Generally the gamma rays emitted by any radioactive nucleus are in the range of few keV to ~10 MeV of energy and produce line spectrum. While rays associated with high energy (more than 1 TeV) like X-rays shows continuum spectra. Hence X-rays typically related to the high energy (more than 100keV) electromagnetic emission of atoms, while the lowest energy emissions of nuclei are called as gamma rays that are less than 20 keV.

For example, the analysis of gamma rays emitted from natural uranium can be detected by using gamma rays spectrum which show discrete lines superimposed on a smooth continuum with peaks for daughter nuclides 226Ra, 214Pb, and 214Bi formed in decay chain of the uranium.

Analysis of Gamma Rays Emitted from Uranium

A gamma analyzer or spectrometer mainly consists
  • A detector (photodiode made of a 1.2 kg germanium crystal)which collect all electronic date and process the signals
  • A computer for display and store the spectrum
  • Rate meters
  • Peak position stabilizers

Gamma Ray Spectrometer

Gamma rays spectrometer will used to supply about the moon like the content of water and hydrogen present on moon surface. The Odyssey spacecraft used Gamma rays spectrometer which mainly consists of four main components.
  1. Gamma sensor head
  2. Neutron spectrometer
  3. High energy neutron detector
  4. Central electronics assembly

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