Where are we going with this? This page will assist in developing the ability to compare and contrast nuclear reactions with chemical reactions and to describe nuclear changes in matter, including fission, fusion, transmutations, and decays.
Nuclear Chemistry Basic Concepts
Okay… it is assumable that "nuclear chemistry" must be different from "chemistry" or else this page wouldn't be needed.
Flashback… In a chemical reaction two or more elements combine to form a compound. A compound made up of the two or more elements that were originally present. In the end, you have the same numbers of the same types of elements. They are just combined into a new substance.
According to the Law of Conservation of Matter, matter can neither be created nor destroyed. You end up with exactly the same numbers and types of atoms from each of the reacting elements.
Okay, so… nuclear chemistry… "Nuclear" is an adjective. There's a root in there that's the same as "Nucleus." Hold that thought.
Chemical reactions occur when something happens in the electron shells. A couple of atoms will get together and have their electrons do stuff (lit. personification: that makes the atoms happy).
Electrons are located OUTSIDE the nucleus of the atom. So, changes in "normal" chemistry occur outside the nucleus.
In nuclear chemistry, the changes also occur WITHIN the nucleus. Something happens with the protons, neutrons, and electrons.
Nuclear Chemistry: The study of chemical reactions dealing with changes and transformations in the nuclei of atoms.
So, applying the Law of Conservation to nuclear chemistry… and over-simplifying… In a nuclear reaction, the total number of protons, neutrons, and electrons remains the same.
Caveat: it is possible for some of the mass to be converted to energy… that complicates things!
The reaction might combine all of the atomic particles, but in the end, the totals are all the same.
Looks like this is going to get complicated! We need to understand some words!
So that we can understand the different types of reactions!