Nuclear physics is a branch of modern physics that studies the behavior and properties of atomic nuclei .
Nuclear physics studies the following areas:
Radioactivity seeks to understand the nature of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, its biological effects, and applications under the radioactive decay law for nuclear power generation.
See also Nuclear Power .
Radioactivity is the spontaneous disintegration of heavy and unstable nuclei. Radiation is characterized by its penetrating power in matter, that is, in the amount of mass it manages to pass through and its power of ionization or the electric charge they generate:
- Alpha radiation penetrates a sheet of paper and its ionizing power is great.
- Beta radiation penetrates aluminum and its ionizing power is less than alpha but greater than gamma.
- Gamma radiation penetrates lead and its ionization power is very low.
A practical application, for example, is the use in smoke detectors. Alpha radiation ionizes the air and the smoke absorbs alpha radiation, therefore, when there is smoke, it reduces the amount of ionized particles in the air that lowers the intensity of the current and activates the alarm.
The atomic nucleus
The atomic nucleus is made up of positively charged protons and neutrally charged neutrons. What holds the particles together in the atomic nucleus is called binding energy. The binding energy of nuclear forces is one hundred times greater than the electromagnetic force.
See also Atomic Nucleus and Radiation .
Nuclear reactions are important to understand the consequences of using this type of energy. Nuclear reactions are governed by conservation laws that indicate four conservation principles :
- The number of nucleons
- Electric charge
- The amount of movement
- The energy of the mass
The study of subatomic particles help define and understand the nature of the fundamental forces that nuclear physics studies. The characteristics and behaviors of subatomic particles is the subject of study of quantum mechanics.