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NE 101

Course Title: 
Nuclear Reactions and Radiation
Course Units: 
Catalog Description: 
  • Energetics and kinetics of nuclear reactions and radioactive decay, fission, fusion, and reactions of energetic neutrons, properties of the fission products and the actinides; nuclear models and transition probabilities; interaction of radiation with matter.
Course Prerequisite: 
  • Physics 7ABC Physics for scientists and engineers
Prerequisite Knowledge and/or Skills: 

The course uses the following knowledge and skills from prerequisite and lower-division courses:

  • solve linear, first and second order differential equations.
  • understand and apply the fundamental laws of physical chemistry such as the Boltzmann distribution for particles in an ideal gas.
  • understand and apply the fundamentals of classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism and the elements of quantum mechanics to idealized representations of the structure of nuclei and nuclear reactions.
  • understand and apply the fundamental notions of probability and probability distributions.
Course Objectives: 
  • Provide the students with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of those aspect of low-energy nuclear physics that are most important to applications in such areas as nuclear engineering, nuclear and radiochemistry, geosciences, biotechnology, etc.
Course Outcomes: 
  • calculate the consequences of radioactive growth and decay and nuclear reactions.
  • calculate estimates of nuclear masses and energetics based on empirical data and nuclear models.
  • calculate estimates of the lifetimes of nuclear states that are unstable to alpha-,beta- and gamma decay and internal conversion based on the theory of simple nuclear models.
  • use nuclear models to predict low-energy level structure and level energies.
  • use nuclear models to predict the spins and parities of low-lying levels and estimate their consequences with respect to radioactive decay.
  • use nuclear models to understand the properties of neutron capture and the Breit-Wigner single level formula to calculate cross sections at resonance and thermal energies.
  • calculate the kinematics of the interaction of photons with matter and apply stopping power to determine the energy loss rate and ranges of charged particles in matter
  • calculate the energies of fission fragments and understand the charge and mass distributions of the fission products, and prompt neutron and gamma rays from fission
Topics Covered: 
  • Introduction to nuclear reactions and radioactive decay - mass and energy balances and decay modes
  • Nuclear and Atomic masses - empirical data and the semiempirpical mass formula
  • Application of the Semiempirical mass formula to determine the nuclear mass surface and the general characteristics of the energetics of alpha- and beta-decay and nuclear fission
  • Application of the Semiempirical mass formula to uncover empirical evidence for nuclear shell structure; the magic numbers
  • Introduction to the facts of quantum mechanics and conserved quantities – angular momentum and parity, the Schroedinger equation and the particle in the box model
  • The Spherical Shell Model - particle motion , angular momentum and parity in the spherical potential well and the isotropic harmonic oscillator potentials
  • The Empirical Shell Model and low-lying levels of spherical and near spherical nuclei
  • The Electric Potential of Nuclei and Evidence for Deformed Nuclei – multipole expansion of the electric potential and empirical data on quadrupole moments
  • Predictions of the Quantized Rigid Rotor and Harmonic Vibrator - comparisons of the idealized models with empirical data on rotational and vibrational spectra of deformed nuclei
  • Alpha Decay - energetics and the decay probability in the limit of the Gamow model. Comparison of model predictions with empirical data. Alpha decay schemes
  • Beta Decay - beta decay, positron emission and electron capture; the Fermi theory of allowed beta decay; forbidden transitions; Fermi and Gamow-Teller decay; empirical beta decay schemes and correlations with elementary beta decay theory and spherical shell structure
  • Gamma Decay and Internal Conversion- multipole expansion of the radiation field and qualitative consideration of decay probabilities in the limit of the Moskowski and Weisskopf models; nuclear isomerism; internal conversion; nuclear structure and empirical data on gamma decay
  • Nuclear Fission - energetics and empirical data on mass distributions and shell structure, charge distribution of the fission fragments, prompt neutrons and gamma rays
  • Nuclear Reactions - reaction types and energetics; kinematics of two-body elastic scattering and nuclear reactions; applications to moderation of neutrons and the interaction of charged particles with matter; direct and compound nuclear reactions; resonances and physical plausibility of the form of the Breit-Wigner single level formula; the Breit-Wigner single level formula and resonances properties of neutron reactions
  • Introduction to the Interaction of Charged Particles with Matter; ranges of leptons and heavy charged particles in matter
  • Introduction to the Interaction of Photons with Matter - the Compton Effect; qualitative discussion of the effect of electron binding; pair production; macroscopic cross sections and attenuation coefficients
Textbook(s) and/or Other Required Materials: 
  • "Introductory Nuclear Physics", K.S. Krane, John Wiley and Sons
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 
  • This is primarily a lecture course.  4 hours per week.
Contribution of Course to Meeting the Professional Component: 
  • This course contributes primarily to the students' knowledge of engineering topics, and does not provide design experience.
  • Nuclear reactions and radiation central to all parts of nuclear engineering, and thus this course is required for all NE students.
Relationship of Course to Degree Program Objectives: 
  • This course primarily serves students in the department. The information below describes how the course contributes to the undergraduate program objectives.This course contributes to the NE program objectives by providing education in nuclear reactions and radiation important for a career in nuclear and bionuclear engineering. It does not provide students with direct design experience.
Assessment of Student Progress Toward Course Objectives: 
  • 12 problem sets: 20%
  • Two midterm exams 20% (each)
  • Final exam: 40%