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11.1: Chapter 11: Nuclear Chemistry

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

Chapter Overview

Radioactivity is an atom’s ability to emit radiation from the nucleus. Many elements have radioactive isotopes and some elements have only radioactive isotopes. Nuclei of radioactive isotopes are unstable and undergo radioactive decay, in which they emit particles and/or energy and change to different elements. The rate of decay varies by element and is measured by the half-life. Nuclear reactions include nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Both release huge amounts of energy. Einstein’s equation, E = mc2, explains why.

Online Resources

See the following Web sites for appropriate laboratory activities:

Have pairs of students do the radioactive decay and half-life lab at the following URL. It is based on a hands-on simulation of radioactive decay using pennies in a shoebox. From the class data, students will be able to make several important inferences about the rate of decay of radioactive elements.

The nuclear fission simulation lab at the URL below is an award-winning inquiry lab. It is based on the nuclear fission simulation at the same URL.

This lab activity explains nuclear fusion and how radiation is generated by stars, using marshmallows as a model. Students will explore cosmic radiation and where it comes from, and how the elements in the universe are generated. The PDF contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, links to background information, and a printable periodic table of the elements.

These Web sites may also be helpful:

This document from NASA provides a detailed introduction to radiation and several related activities for middle school students. The focus is on the impact of radiation on living things.

At the following URL, you can find background readings and several activities on nuclear reactions and nuclear energy that were developed specifically for middle school students.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Booklet “The Harnessed Atom” is a comprehensive middle school teacher’s kit on nuclear energy. It includes many readings and review exercises that are germane to this chapter in the FlexBook® resource. The PDF document can be found at this URL: http://www.osti.gov/speeches/doene0072.pdf.

Pacing the Lessons

Lesson Class Period(s) (60 min)
11.1 Radioactivity 1.5
11.2 Radioactive Decay 2.0
11.3 Nuclear Energy 2.0

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Date Created:

Nov 11, 2013

Last Modified:

Nov 10, 2014
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