Nuclear Reactions:
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Nuclear Reactions:. AN INTRODUCTION TO FISSION & FUSION. Farley Visitors Center. Introduction. Nuclear reactions deal with interactions between the nuclei of atoms The focus of this presentation are the processes of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion

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Nuclear Reactions:


Farley Visitors Center


  • Nuclear reactions deal with interactions between the nuclei of atoms

  • The focus of this presentation are the processes of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion

  • Both fission and fusion processes deal with matter and energy

Matter and Energy

  • Previous studies have taught us that “matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed”

  • We now need to understand that Matter and Energy are two forms of the same thing

E = mc2

  • Matter can be changed into Energy

  • Einstein’s formula above tells us how the change occurs

  • In the equation above:

    E = Energy

    m = Mass

    c = Speed of Light (Universal Constant)





E = mc2

  • The equation may be read as follows:

    Energy (E) is equal to Mass (m) multiplied by the Speed of Light (c) squared

  • This tells us that a small amount of mass can be converted into a very largeamount of energy because the speed of light (c) is an extremely large number


  • Fission may be defined as the process of splitting an atomic nucleus into fission fragments

  • The fission fragments are generally in the form of smaller atomic nuclei and neutrons

  • Large amounts of energy are produced by the fission process


  • Fissile nuclei are generally heavy atoms with large numbers of nucleons

  • The nuclei of such heavy atoms are struck by neutrons initiating the fission process

  • Fission occurs due to electrostatic repulsion created by large numbers of protons within the nuclei of heavy atoms


  • A classic example of a fission reaction is that of U-235:

    U-235 + 1 Neutron

    2 Neutrons + Kr-92 + Ba-142 + Energy

  • In this example, a stray neutron strikes an atom of U-235. It absorbs the neutron and becomes an unstable atom of U-236. It then undergoes fission. Notice that more neutrons are released in the reaction. These neutrons can strike other U-235 atoms to initiate their fission.


  • The fission process is an a natural one as a French researcher found a natural uranium reactor in Gabon, West Africa; it has been estimated to be over 2 billion years old

  • Fission produces large amounts of heat energy and it is this heat that is captured by nuclear power plants to produce electricity


  • Fusion is a nuclear reaction whereby two light atomic nuclei fuse or combine to form a single larger, heavier nucleus

  • The fusion process generates tremendous amounts of energy; refer back to Einstein’s equation

  • For fusion to occur, a large amount of energy is needed to overcome the electrical charges of the nuclei and fuse them together


  • Fusion reactions do not occur naturally on our planet but are the principal type of reaction found in stars

  • The large masses, densities, and high temperatures of stars provide the initial energies needed to fuel fusion reactions

  • The sun fuses hydrogen atoms to produce helium, subatomic particles, and vast amounts of energy


  • Mass and Energy are two forms of the same thing; neither can be created nor destroyed but mass can be converted into energy (E = mc2)

  • Fission is a nuclear reaction in which a heavy atomic nucleus is split into lighter atomic nuclei

  • Fusion is a nuclear reaction in which 2 light atomic nuclei are combined into a single, heavier atomic nucleus


  • Which nuclear process produces large amounts of energy?

    A. Fission

    B. Fusion

    C. Both fission & fusion

    D. Neither fission nor fusion


  • Fission is the process that _________ atomic nuclei.

    A. Combines

    B. Burns up

    C. Stores

    D. Splits


  • Mass may be converted into energy.

    A. True

    B. False


  • The fission process requires heavy atomic nuclei.

    A. True

    B. False


  • Name a nuclear reaction that occurs within the sun:


  • Fission is a natural process that occurs on the planet Earth.

    A. True

    B. False


  • Explain this equation:

    E = mc2

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