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Nuclear Reactions in Chemistry

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A series of free High School Chemistry Video Lessons.

In this lesson, we will learn

  • Nuclear Reactions
  • Radioactivity
  • Beta Decay
  • Alpha Decay
  • Electron Capture

Nuclear Reactions
Nuclear reactions differ from other chemical reactions in that they involve changing the structure of the nucleus. Types of nuclear reactions include alpha decay, beta decay and gamma decay. Often particles such as electrons, neutrons, or protons are emitted during nuclear reactions.
The different types of nuclear reactions.
Understanding the concept of nuclear reactions.

Radioactivity is a spontaneous process in which atoms with unstable ratios of protons and neutrons in their nuclei decompose into forms with higher stability. Radioactivity is unique because atoms can change their identities by altering the number of protons in their nuclei.
Understanding types and characteristics of radioactivity.

Beta Decay
Sometimes known as Beta minus decay or Beta emission, this process is related to Positron decay. An unstable atom takes a neutron and turns it into a proton, creating a high-energy electron known as a Beta particle. This makes the atom more stable. In this video, we learn the basics of Beta decay, and then write nuclear equations.
There are two types of beta decay: beta-plus decay and beta-minus decay. In beta plus decay the nucleus emits a positron (a positively charged electron) and a neutrino (a proton that changed into a neutron), resulting in the element before it on the periodic table. In beta-minus decay, the nucleus emits an electron and an antineutrino (a neutron that changed to a proton), resulting in the element after it on the periodic table.
Understanding the two types of beta-decay of radioactive substances.

Alpha Decay
Alpha decay is a type of radioactive (nuclear) decay. This video explains what alpha decay is, how atoms go from stable to unstable, and then shows practice problems with examples of alpha decay.
Alpha decay is a type of radioactivity in which the nucleus of an atom loses an alpha particle. Alpha particles are composed of two protons and two neutrons, so they can also be called He2+ nuclei. The result of alpha decay is the transformation of an element into an element found two boxes before it on the periodic table.
Understanding the alpha decay of radioactive substances.

Electron Capture
We introduce electron capture and do some practice example problems. Electron capture is a nuclear decay process. It turns a proton into a neutron, lowering the atomic number, but keeping the mass number the same. It creates gamma rays in the process. Electron capture is similar to alpha decay, beta decay, and positron decay.
Electron capture is a type of decay in which the nucleus of an atom draws in an innershell electron. Electron capture occurs when neutrons and protons are below the band of stability, but there is not enough energy to emit a positron.
How unstable nuclei capture electrons.

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