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Making stable element unstable

  1. Nov 27, 2014 #1
    A simple answer I got searching the web to as why we can't split atoms of non-radioactive elements is that they are stable.So,why can't we make stable elements unstable(radioactive)? Is this possible at least in theory?
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  3. Nov 27, 2014 #2


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    If we excite them to states above their decay threshold, sure. We do this all the time.

    ETA: That was a bit terse. Sorry. The reason nuclei decay is because it is energetically favourable for them to do so - the product is more stable. Like atoms, nuclei have excited states, governed by quantum mechanics. If you promote the nucleus from the ground to excited states through a reaction, there will be a point after which it becomes unstable to decay.

    An example is 6Li (chosen because I have the level scheme open, no particular reason). The ground state is stable, but if you promote it to the first excited state at 2.186 MeV, it is unstable to alpha emission, and will turn into 4He + d.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2014
  4. Nov 27, 2014 #3


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    To change anything, you have to influence the nuclei somehow. Give them energy in form of electromagnetic radiation or incoming particles is an effective method, but this either directly leads to a nuclear process (then it is not called a decay) or the nucleus gets changed permanently (then something else might decay later).
  5. Nov 30, 2014 #4


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    Not only is it possible in theory to make elements radioactive, the discovery of this process earned Irene Curie and F. Joliot a Nobel Prize in 1935:


    It also led to the creation of the first atomic reactors soon afterward.
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