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In fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so vast?

  1. Apr 26, 2012 #1
    and nuclei are so small(on an atomic level!). is it that there are SO many atoms around and that thermal neutrons are still incredibly fast, that if there is a reflector surrounding(lets say we're talking about a critical mass of uranium and an uncontrolled chain reaction), that the neutron will inevitably find a nucleus?
     
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  3. Apr 26, 2012 #2

    phyzguy

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    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    The other important point is that, since the DeBroglie wavelength of the neutron increases as the energy and momentum decreases, the capture cross-section gets much larger at low energies. This is why moderators are used to slow down the neutrons so that they are more likely to be absorbed.
     
  4. Apr 27, 2012 #3
    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    use lots of slow neutrons...lots of uranium [critical mass]..use U-235....some explanations here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_cross_section
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012
  5. Apr 27, 2012 #4
  6. Apr 27, 2012 #5
    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    so, assuming a critical mass of pure u235, and modifiers to slow down the neutron what is the AVERAGE distance a neutron will travel before it fissions an atom? (in picometers)
     
  7. Apr 28, 2012 #6

    Astronuc

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    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    It's on the order of cm. In a critical mass of pure U-235, there would be no moderation or very little slowing down. Such systems are usually designed for prompt criticality, i.e., the fission is induced by fast (fission) neutrons. Many neutrons however would escape the mass.
     
  8. Apr 28, 2012 #7
    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    is this not just like asking how come asteroids hit planets?
     
  9. Apr 29, 2012 #8
    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    starting to put some numbers together, I will share some thoughts but I'm curious...within what percent off the equator of a nucleus will a fast neutron fission be possible? 5%? 10%? 20%?
     
  10. Apr 29, 2012 #9

    Drakkith

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    Re: in fission how does a neutron find a nucleus if the space between nuclei is so va

    No. A neutron is a tiny subatomic particle and we must account for quantum effects, which are very dominant at that scale.
     
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