Term Paper: Nuclear Chemistry

Pages: 4 (1078 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Chemistry  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … nuclear chemistry, including the history of its development, a brief examination of certain key reaction that are used and examined in the field, and an assessment of nuclear chemistry's value to chemistry as a whole. Nuclear chemistry deals with the smallest particles involved in chemical reactions, what are known as alpha and beta particles. From the early discovery of radiation and the identification of these particles in the late nineteenth century to the current era of nuclear energy and increased understandings of stars, nuclear chemistry grew up quite rapidly. Uranium reactions such as those that take place in basic nuclear reactors are described, and the importance of nuclear chemistry in the future is also detailed.

Introduction

There are many different branches of chemistry, all of which yield exciting academic as well as practical advances and results. Ultimately, however, none of the other branches of chemistry would make much sense without the findings of nuclear chemistry. This does not mean that nuclear chemistry emerged as a distinct branch of chemistry ahead of the others, or that other areas of chemistry branched off from nuclear chemistry, but simply that nuclear chemistry deals with some of the most fundamental aspects of chemical reactions, without which there truly wouldn't be any matter or energy with which to drive the chemical reactions and properties studied by chemists in other areas. Though nuclear chemistry's applications are fairly specific, its knowledge informs the smallest level of the world of matter.

Nuclear Chemistry

Nuclear chemistry essentially started with the discovery of radioactivity in the tail end of the nineteenth century (Bodner, 211; Duke, 2011). Researchers like William Conrad Roentgen, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Ernest Rutherford (along with others) observed that metals and some salts containing some of the heavier known (and discovered) elements emitted very small particles at very high energies (Duke, 2011; Carpi, 2003). While typical chemical reactions occur with the valence electrons of atoms, leaving the atoms themselves fundamentally unchanged but for the gain, loss, or sharing of electrons, in 1896 Henri Becquerel link observed radiation to potential changes in uranium's nucleus, and the field of nuclear chemistry was then thrust rapidly from infancy to adolescence (Carpi, 2003).

Today, there are four identified aspects or specific areas of inquiry within the larger field of nuclear chemistry: the chemical and physical properties of radioactive elements, the nuclear properties of these elements and their reactions, large-scale processes that involve nuclear reactions, and measurement techniques based on nuclear phenomena (Loveland et al., 2006). This might not make it immediately clear why nuclear chemistry is so fundamental to other branches of chemistry. Yet when it is considered that ultimately all matter and energy in the world is sourced from nuclear reactions -- theoretically beginning with the Big Bang and continuing with the nuclear reactions that power the Sun and other stars -- this connection and fundamental nature becomes much more clear (Duke, 2011).

The basic nuclear reactions that lead to the emission of radioactive particles are still not entirely understood, but it is known that alpha particles -- the type of radiation first discovered, and with the least penetrative force -- consist of to protons and two neutrons, which is essentially the same as a standard… [END OF PREVIEW]

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