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Science and Technology

Nuclear Science is the study of the structure, properties, and interactions of atomic nuclei, which are the hearts of atoms. The nucleus is the place where almost all of the mass of ordinary matter resides.

The Nucleus

The atomic nucleus consists of nucleons including protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are made of quarks and held together by the strong force generated by gluon exchange between quarks. In nuclei with many nucleons, the effective strong forces may be described by the exchange of mesons (particles composed of quark-antiquark pairs).

Isotopes of Hydrogen

  • There are three isotopes of the element hydrogen: hydrogen, deuterium, and tritium.
  • The distinguishing feature is that each has one single proton (Z = 1) but differ in the number of their neutrons.
  • Hydrogen has no neutron, deuterium has one, and tritium has two neutrons.
  • The isotopes of hydrogen have, respectively, mass numbers of one, two, and three. Their nuclear symbols are therefore 1H, 2H, and 3H.

Nuclear Energy

  • Nuclear Fission occurs when the nucleus of an atom divides into two smaller nuclei. Fission can occur spontaneously; it may also be induced by the capture of a neutron.
  • Nuclear Fusion occurs when two nuclei combine together to form a larger nucleus.
  • Fusion of low-Z nuclei can release a considerable amount of energy. This is the source of  Sun’s energy. Four hydrogen nuclei (protons) combine in a multistep process to form a helium nucleus.

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