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Lead into gold

  1. Jan 3, 2004 #1
    Is it possible for this to happen?
    As far as I know the only way to change elements into other elements is through radioactive decay, and fusion and fission yeah yeah. But I also know that elements with atomic numbers higher then lead's tend to decay into lead and just kind of stop there presumably because it's so stable. So, question time!

    1. what makes lead so stable?
    2. is it possible to decay past lead?
    3. will we ever be able to turn lead into gold? And, while on the subject, do you think that humanity will one day have the power to transform any element into another?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2004 #2


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    As atomic number increases, the neurtron to proton ratios of a stable nuclei become greater than one; since more neutrons are needed to counteract proton-proton repulsion. And thus we have the linear representation of stable nuclei as the belt of stability (graph: neutron/proton). Anything outside of this belt or any nuclei with more than 83 protons tend to be unstable.

    Lead has a relatively high nuclear binding energy, that is the experimentally known mass defect measured by deltaE=(delta m)c^2 (I need to start using latex) and is within the belt of stability. It is one of the most stable nuclei. And thus radioactive decay series of U238(92) does not goes past lead, at least in nature.

    Although I do believe that we can turn some elements into gold in a small scale process, going from lead to gold is not necessary. Turning any element into another? Again, think small scale production, and I don't think science will ever be going towards that direction.

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