Pressure and rate of nuclear decomposure

  • Thread starter SAZAR
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Does pressure and enormous heat inside the Earth's bowel affect the rate of natural nuclear decomposure?

Let's bear in mind that we are talking about high pressures here; melted rocks along with radioactive elements (Uranium, Plutonium) - lava, deep inside Earth.

Were there any tests on this; is there any data about this; what do you say?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
mathman
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The radioactive decay processes are unaffected by by pressure and relatively ordinary temperature. Nuclear reactions typically involve gamma ray (harder than x-ray) energies.
 
  • #4
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OK.

...I asked that question because I wondered if that somehow can affect the data about the age of our planet. You know - if pressure and heat can affect nuclear decay time maybe data about it may be incorect. So - you say that it doesn't affect it, but...

---

Can pressure and heat cause nuclear fusion - so simplier atoms can recombine into some more complex, radioactive elements (so when you try to determine the age of it you get the data that leads you to a wrong conclusion)?
 
  • #5
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...Or, better yet, generally speaking: is there any way at all - known or yet not very known to science, for Earth to 'fool' the geologists trying to determine the age of stones?
 
  • #6
Astronuc
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SAZAR said:
Can pressure and heat cause nuclear fusion - so simplier atoms can recombine into some more complex, radioactive elements (so when you try to determine the age of it you get the data that leads you to a wrong conclusion)?
Short answer - NO! The pressures and temperatures are not high enough, even at the center of the earth.

The core is mostly Fe, and fusion of Fe to heavier elements requires conditions found in supernovae - which are much greater than the center of the earth.
 
  • #7
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OK
Thanks for the answer.
 
  • #8
CarlB
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It's not a very common thing, but pressure and heat can change the chemical composition of rocks, and it's known that (contrary to popular belief) chemical changes can alter nuclear decay rates.

We had a discussion on the subject just a few days ago here on physicsforums:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=78878

Here's a couple references from the literature:
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v15/i16/p680_1
http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=PRLTAO000093000011112501000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes [Broken]

None of this would be enough to screw up the age of the planet, but it does show that nature is a danged comlicated thing.

Carl
 
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