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Nuclear Physics – A Level Physics

Nuclear Physics – A Level Physics

Nuclear Physics – A Level Physics
Continuing the A Level Physics revision series looking at nuclear physics including the nuclear radius and density and the strong interaction…

Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Physics

9 August 1945 – Atom bomb over Nagasaki

Rutherford’s experiment
The diameter of a nucleus
Activity and half-life
Radioactivity
Radioactivity series
Energy-mass equivalence
Binding energy
Mass defect
Binding energy per nucleon and nuclear stability
Fission and fusion
Thermal nuclear reactor
Safety features of a thermal nuclear reactor
Radioactive waste

Rutherford’s Experiment

Debate about the structure of the atom was put to rest after Ernest Rutherford’s famous gold leaf experiment in 1911. Rutherford fired a stream of positively charged alpha particles towards a thin film of gold that was only a few atoms thick. He foudn that most of the alpha particles went straight through, suggesting that the majority of the atom is empty space.

Some of the alpha particles deflected marginally and others bounced back towards the source of the alpha particles. This suggsted that there was a small concentration of positive charge in the centre of a mostly empty atom. The centre of the atom became known as the nucleus, where almost all of the mass of an atom resides (this is, of course, excluding the small amounts of mass from electrons).

The image below shows the paths that alpha particles have taken when passing by a nucleus. The closer to the nucleus the more the alpha particle is deflected. Moving towards the nucleus head on the alpha particle bounces directly back to the source.

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