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What is a Nuclear Reaction? An Intelligent Look at 6 Types

what is a nuclear reaction

If you want to know what a nuclear reaction is, you are in the right place. You’ll find out what causes a nuclear reaction, the differences between the types of nuclear reactions, and the role each type of reaction plays. There are also some things you should keep in mind when it comes to nuclear reactions.


A nuclear reaction is the process by which an atom’s nucleus changes, usually by adding or subtracting a number of particles.  These particles can be protons or neutrons, but they can also include high-energy particles such as alpha, beta, or gamma rays.  A fission reaction is when the nucleus of an atom splits into two parts.

Nuclear reactions are similar to chemical reactions. Both involve rearrangement of the electrons of an atom. However, a chemical reaction does not change the nucleus. This is because the nucleus is the smallest unit of matter.

Unlike a chemical reaction, however, a nuclear reaction can be spontaneous. The rate of a nuclear reaction is unaffected by temperature, pressure, or the presence of catalysts. In addition to its direct component, a nuclear reaction is accompanied by nuclear radiations.

Nuclear radiations are produced by the disintegration of radioactive nucleoids. They include gamma rays, alpha particles, positrons, and beta particles. Each of these particles has a specific energy, or “botic” value.

The energy change from a nuclear reaction can be several million times greater than the energy change from a chemical reaction. This can be attributed to the binding energy that is available to each of the nucleons.

There are two basic types of nuclear reactions. There are direct reactions and compound nucleus reactions. For a compound nucleus reaction to occur, both the projectile and target nuclei must be within the range of the atomic force.

An atom is the smallest unit of matter, composed of two neutrons and one proton. Protons carry a positive electrical charge and neutrons carry a negative charge.


The fusion of light nuclei to form a heavy nucleus is a nuclear reaction that has the potential to generate vast amounts of energy. It’s also a clean and safe energy source, as no radioactive waste is produced. But while scientists have achieved great feats in this area, the process itself is still a long way from becoming a practical means of generating power.

As the world population grows, there’s going to be a need for more energy. Although some governments are investing in research to find a more practical path to fusion, it’s still not the first choice for big power generation projects.

Some companies are working on alternative approaches. One of these is called magnetic confinement fusion. In this method, a powerful magnet is placed on the inside of a ring-shaped chamber known as a torus.

A hot plasma is formed in the middle of the torus. This is the source of the heat, which is kept under control by a magnetic field. When the temperature reaches a certain level, the plasma begins to fuse together.

There are several ways to create a magnetic field, including breaking the plasma into tiny bubbles and imploding them. These processes result in high temperatures and create conditions that enable a high density.

A second method is to use a magnetic field to keep the plasma in place. Tokamak machines have been successful at creating the required particle density. However, they are too large to reach the burning plasma conditions needed to achieve self-sustaining fusion.

Capture reactions

Neutron capture is one of the most important reactions in the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements in the Universe. It also plays a critical role in the nuclear transmutation processes in nuclear reactors. The neutron-capture reaction is used in a variety of applications, including stockpile stewardship and societal issues.

Neutron capture occurs with almost any nucleus. In contrast to thermonuclear reactions, which produce nuclei that are stable, capture reactions are unstable. As the neutron captures the nucleus, it merges with the nucleus and creates a new, heavier nucleus.

There are two main ways in which neutron capture can occur in stars. Capture can proceed in an r-process, whereby the nucleus absorbs the neutron, or in an s-process, where the nucleus emits the neutron. However, it is difficult to determine the rate of a neutron capture reaction directly. This is because the neutron-neucleus interaction is characterized by a longer time for the nuclear force to interact with the target nucleus.

While it is not possible to measure a capture reaction directly, a cross-section of the reaction can be measured. Moreover, there are three possible regions in which the cross-section can be divided. These are according to the incident neutron energy.

A direct radiative capture reaction is a non-resonant, one-step nuclear reaction. In this reaction, a neutron is bombarded with a charged particle. If the target nucleus is in a high state of excitation, the nucleus captures the neutron and emits electromagnetic radiation.

Gamma rays

Gamma rays are high energy electromagnetic radiation produced in a nuclear reaction. They are considered to be the most penetrating form of electromagnetic radiation, and their energies are far higher than those of x-rays.

These high-energy photons are produced in pairs when a nucleus undergoes a nuclear reaction. In the process of pair production, an electron is annihilated by a positron, resulting in the emission of a gamma ray. The gamma ray photon has the highest energy of all photons, which can be in excess of tens of thousands of electron volts.

Despite their high energy, gamma rays have relatively low ionizing power. Consequently, they are less dangerous than alpha particles. However, their penetration power is high enough to damage living systems.

Typically, gamma rays are produced by nuclear reactions and by the decay of unstable subatomic particles. Their energy levels are usually in the 1-MeV range. During a nucleus’s transition from a stable state to an unstable one, it emits photons to carry the excess energy.

Natural radioisotopes are found in every type of soil, rock, and food. For example, caesium-137 is one of the most useful radionuclides. It is used in many medical applications, including cancer screening. Americium-241 is also used in blood flow studies.

Artificial sources of gamma rays are nuclear explosions, nuclear fission in nuclear reactors, and nuclear accidents. Standard gamma-ray detectors use the ionization of atomic electrons in crystals or semiconductors.

Neutron emission

Neutron emission is a radioactive decay mechanism that can occur when a nucleus has significant excitation energy. This reaction, which may be accompanied by release of g-rays, presents challenges to testing and characterization.

The neutron-nucleus reaction can take several forms. Among them, are weak interactions, inelastic scattering, and the (n, 2n) reaction. These are the three most common types of neutron-nucleus reactions.

Inelastic scattering is a form of neutron-nucleus interaction in which the target nucleus absorbs a neutron from a hit atom. The emitted neutron is essentially identical to the incident neutron.

Although the process is extremely fast, it is mediated by a repulsive nuclear force. It is thought that the emitted neutron may be a result of the movement of many nucleons.

Electron emission is another process by which an electron is ejected from a nucleus. Electrons are tiny particles within a molecule. As the number of electrons increases, they get closer to the nucleus, increasing the charge on the nucleus.

The Kratz-Herrmann formula describes this effect. In the KHF formula, the width “G” is a difference in energy between two points in the cross section, where the cross section drops to half its maximum value.

An alternate way to produce neutrons is by electron capture. This method is most common in heavier nuclides.

Another method of producing a neutron is by spontaneous fission. This reaction occurs when a heavy nucleus splits into two or three smaller nuclei.

Radiation dose

Radiation is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Earth. It comes from natural sources such as radon, uranium ore, cosmic radiation, and radioactivity in rocks.

Ionizing radiation is associated with nuclear energy, and can damage living tissue and cells. It can also be used in the medical and industrial fields. The health effects of ionizing radiation depend on the type of radiation and its level of exposure.

Radionuclides travel to different organs and deliver a dose over time. This measure is called effective dose. Doses are usually measured in millisieverts (mSv), a 1000th of a sievert.

Effective dose is a metric that is often used to assess the total health detriment of ionizing radiation. It is calculated by multiplying an absorbed dose by a quality factor. These factors are based on the specific type of radiation, the sensitivity of each organ, and the differences in the resulting health effects.

Radiation is measured in units of Gray (Gy). One gray of alpha particles is approximately 20 sieverts of biological effect. Alpha particles interact more readily with matter than gamma rays. In this way, alpha particles disrupt more molecules than gamma rays.

Another unit of measurement is the rad. A rad is one-thousandth of a sievert. If an individual was exposed to 1,000 rems, he would have immediate tissue damage.

An equivalent unit of measurement is the becquerel (Bq). One Bq is the equivalent of one disintegration per second.

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