A Visual Explanation of Radiochemistry with the help of GIFs

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The study of radioactive materials, their properties as well as chemical reactions of non-radioactive isotopes is done in radiochemistry. Mostly radioactivity is used to carry out the studies on ordinary chemical reactions in the Radiochemistry. Radiochemistry differs from radiation chemistry in the fact that radiation levels are kept too low to influence the chemistry. Both natural and man-made isotopes are taken into consideration in the field of Radiochemistry.

Decaying of Radioactive Isotopes

There are three types of radiations emitted during the decay process. Since most of the radioisotopes are usually unstable isotopes, they undergo the process of radioactive decay and emit radiation during the process.

Alpha Radiation

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An alpha particle contains 2 neutrons and 2 protons and when the alpha particle is released from a nucleus, it results in the decrease of the atomic mass by 4 and the atomic number by 2. The animations show how upon collision, an alpha particle is emitted from the nucleus. The general equation of an alpha decay is:

Alpha rad.

Beta Radiation

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Just like an alpha decay process, there is also a beta decay process that leads to the emission of beta radiations. The beta emission occurs when an electron is released from the nucleus into the electron cloud. You can see in the first animation how the neutron suddenly emits an electron (blue) and the electron anti-neutrino (black), turning into a proton. The converted proton has its proton number of the nuclide going up by 1 which leads to the formation of a new element.  The beta decay equation is:

Beta Radiation

Gamma Radiation

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Gamma radiations are emitted in the form of electromagnetic energy during an alpha or beta decay process.  These radiations are pretty high frequency radiations e.g. X-rays.  The animation is the same as that of alpha decay and you can see the emission of gamma radiation in the animation.

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These three types of radiations are distinguished on the basis of their penetrating power. As you can see in the animation, gamma rays have much more penetrative capability as compared to the other two types of radiations.

Alpha radiations are easily stopped by a piece of paper. Beta radiations have high kinetic energy bearing electrons but they are easily stopped by a few mm of aluminium whereas gamma radiations possess great frequency and penetrating power. They can be stopped using a few cm of steel and meters of concrete.

Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA)

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It is a process related to radiochemistry where by the relative concentration of substances in a larger substance is determined using a nuclear process. This analysis is quite effective due to the reason that it focuses on the nuclei instead of the chemical makeup of the substance. Neutron activation analysis slightly different from most other types of spectroscopic analysis, as it is based on nuclear transitions rather than electronic transitions, meaning that the changes the process looks for occur within the nucleus rather than in the electrical aspects of the atom. The animation shows the NAA on an atomic level.


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Radiochemistry has quite a number of applications in the biological, chemical and environmental industry. In the biological field it can be used for the study of DNA with the help of the radioactive phosphorous 32.

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The environmental impact the radioisotopes have on their surroundings is also included in radiochemistry e.g. a forest or grass fire can make radioisotopes become mobile again.

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