Stabilizing the radioactive elements.

  • Thread starter Antymattar
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Hello! I'm new to the forum so please don't mind any mishaps.

I am very interested in the unstable radioactive elemts. I read that the thing that makes elements radioactive is ther different amounts of neutrons. Does this mean that all the radioactiive elements are radioactive just because our particle accelerators are not good enough? Wouldn't all the elements be stable if we could make their neutron ammount be the right size?
 

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  • #2
mathman
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Radioactive isotopes are such because of their composition. Particle accelerators having nothing to do with it.
 
  • #3
Drakkith
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Elements are radioactive because as you get higher up though the elements the amount of protons in the nucleus increase. Protons have a positive charge and thus repel each other. Neutrons provide extra force through the strong force to hold the nucleus together while being electrically neutral, which means that they will not be repelled by themselves or the protons. At a certain limit the repulsive force of all those protons starts to overcome the force holding the nucleus together and elements become radioactive. Even adding more neutrons wont cause the nucleus to hold together, and in many cases will cause it to tear itself apart even faster.

Thats the short simple answer. It's a little more complicated than that though.
 
  • #4
bcrowell
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If I'm understanding the question correctly, it's this: for a given Z, why can't we always find some N for which the nucleus would be stable?

I think there are at least two different cases that need to be considered.

For an element like technetium, we get a case where although there is an N that is the most stable for a given Z, the nucleus is still unstable with respect to beta decay. This is discussed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium-98#Stability_of_technetium_isotopes

Another case is heavy elements that decay by fission or alpha decay. I think adding neutrons will always improve stability with respect to fission or alpha decay, because the dilution of the charge will make the electrical repulsion weaker. However, I think this would also make the nucleus beta-unstable. (And in any case there is no known natural or artificial process that could create very neutron-rich high-Z nuclei.)
 
  • #5
Oh, okay! Thanks! I thought so basically I had a kind-of-close idea of how that would happen. But in theory it would still be possible to make radioactive elements more stable but there just isn't any known technology to do so. right?
 
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bcrowell
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Oh, okay! Thanks! I thought so basically I had a kind-of-close idea of how that would happen. But in theory it would still be possible to make radioactive elements more stable but there just isn't any known technology to do so. right?
No. That isn't what we've been telling you.
 

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