Spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements

In summary, the spatial distribution of radiation from a radioactive element is generally spherical in free space, with the directions of decay results being random. However, the direction of decay products can be influenced by the spin of the original nucleus, and in some special cases, can be synchronized through external factors. The experiment by C.-S. Wu in 1956 showed that the direction of decay products is not random, but aligned with the spin of the original nucleus. However, at room temperature, the random orientations of nuclei result in random radiation output. One example of correlated radiation is Co-60, which emits two gamma rays in correlated directions.
  • #1
zephramcochran
10
0
Hi all,

I have a couple questions about radiation from radioactive elements. I've read a lot of articles on the different types of radiation given off by elements undergoing nuclear decay (alpha, beta, and gamma)
but I haven't been able to answer the following question:

What is the spatial distribution of the radiation given off by a radioactive element?
Can the radiation release from an arbitrary mass of radioactive material be synchronized?

I realize this is a simple question and has probably already been answered, so if someone could either point me in the right direction on this forum or on the internet I would greatly appreciate it.
 
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  • #2
What is the spatial distribution of the radiation given off by a radioactive element?
... in general, in free space: spherical. The directions of the decay results are random.

You cannot predict the time that a nucleus will decay so you cannot synchronize decay events.
 
  • #3
Can the radiation release from an arbitrary mass of radioactive material be synchronized?
You can influence the rate of electron capture via the electron density (or get some neutrino capture events with large neutrino fluxes), but apart from those special cases you cannot change the decay rates.
 
  • #4
Simon Bridge said:
... in general, in free space: spherical. The directions of the decay results are random.
That´s one of the proofs that world is not symmetric: that direction of decay results is NOT random but aligned with the spin of the original nucleus.
 
  • #5
  • #6
snorkack said:
That´s one of the proofs that world is not symmetric: that direction of decay results is NOT random but aligned with the spin of the original nucleus.
Sure, but in general (and especially in free space) the spins are not aligned in some special way. The Wu experiment had very special conditions to see any effect.
 
  • #7
mfb said:
Sure, but in general (and especially in free space) the spins are not aligned in some special way. The Wu experiment had very special conditions to see any effect.
Thanks - saves me the trouble :)

You can make decay products fly off in any direction you want if you are prepared to go into some trouble. The Wu experiment is special - in a totally trivial way you can always just accelerate the parent objects to high velocity (in the lab), then the decay products will tend to fan out in the direction of the parent particle's travel. i.e. we have to impose some directionality on the apparatus.

But I still want to see what zephramcochran means by "synchronize".
Maybe the idea is (like) to make an antimatter-ray using beta+-decays - and OP is thinking of an analogy with lasers.
 
  • #8
Even without parity violation, the direction in which a decay product is emitted is not uniformly distributed over solid angle. Even without parity violation, the direction is correlated with the nucleus's direction of spin. Parity violation just allows a *type* of correlation that would otherwise be forbidden.
 
  • #9
I think a lot of people are missing the point. The radiation is strongly correlated with the orientation of the nucleus. But at room temperature, the nuclei are all in random orientations. So what comes out is random.

If you have a nucleus that emits, for example, two gamma rays - Co-60 is an example - while the directions of both are isotropic, the directions are correlated - i.e. the angle between the gammas is anything but isotropic.
 
  • #10
Is this what OP means by "synchonized"?
 

Related to Spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements

What causes the spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements?

The spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements is caused by the decay of unstable atoms, which emit particles and energy in the form of radiation.

How does the spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements vary?

The spatial distribution of radiation can vary depending on the type of radioactive element, its half-life, and the environment in which it is present. It can also be affected by factors such as distance from the source and shielding materials.

What are the potential health risks associated with the spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements?

Exposure to high levels of radiation from radioactive elements can increase the risk of developing cancer and other health issues. The amount of exposure and the type of radiation can also impact the severity of health effects.

How is the spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements measured and monitored?

Radiation levels can be measured using specialized instruments such as Geiger counters and dosimeters. These measurements can be monitored over time to track changes in the spatial distribution of radiation and assess potential risks.

What steps can be taken to protect against exposure to the spatial distribution of radiation from radioactive elements?

Some steps that can be taken to protect against exposure to radiation from radioactive elements include limiting time spent near sources, using protective gear and shielding materials, and following safety protocols and regulations in environments where radiation is present.

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