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ZingPath: Nuclear Physics

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Nuclear Physics

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Lesson Focus

Half-Life

Physics

You will get to explore the world of nuclear physics. Learn about isotopes, half-life, and radioactive decay. Use your knowledge to help the crew of a damaged nuclear submarine keep the reactor going.

Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

• Define half-life.
• Explain the scientific applications of half-life.

Everything You'll Have Covered

What is true of atoms that are not near the stability band?

Atoms that are not near the stability band are unstable. In some atoms, the binding energy is strong enough to hold the nucleus together. The nucleus of this kind of atom is said to be stable. When the binding energy of the atom is not strong enough to hold the nucleus together, the atoms are said to be unstable. To become stable, unstable atoms move toward a neutron-proton ratio of 1 by giving off radiation.

Define half-life.

Half-life is the time required for the decay of half of a substance. The rate of decay is a measurement of the stability of the element giving off radiation. Half-life is a property that varies from material to material. An element with a long half-life is more stable than an element with a short half-life. Physical properties such as temperature, pressure, and the amount of a substance do not affect half-life.

How does knowing an element's half-life help scientists?

By knowing carbon-14's half-life, scientists can calculate the age of mummies and other living things from ancient times. The key point is that the amount of radioactive carbon-14 is stable as long as they are still alive. After they die, the amount of carbon-14 slowly decreases.

Tutorial Details

 Approximate Time 2 Minutes Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define the terms band of stability, carbon-14, and carbon dating. Course Physics Type of Tutorial Animation Key Vocabulary band of stability, carbon-14, carbon dating