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fission

Fission is a splitting of something into two parts.

In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts (lighter nuclei), often producing free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays?), and releasing a tremendous amount of energy. The two nuclei produced are most often of comparable but slightly different sizes, typically with a mass ratio of products of about 3 to 2, for common fissile? isotopes. Most fissions are binary fissions, but occasionally (2 to 4 times per 1000 events), three positively charged fragments are produced in a ternary fission. The smallest of these ranges in size from a proton to an argon nucleus.

Fission is usually an energetic nuclear reaction induced by a neutron, although it is occasionally seen as a form of spontaneous radioactive decay, especially in very high-mass-number isotopes. The unpredictable composition of the products (which vary in a broad probabilistic and somewhat chaotic manner) distinguishes fission from purely quantum-tunnelling processes such as proton emission?, alpha decay? and cluster decay?, which give the same products every time.

Fission of heavy elements is an exothermic reaction which can release large amounts of energy both as electromagnetic radiation and as kinetic energy of the fragments (heating the bulk material where fission takes place). In order for fission to produce energy, the total binding energy of the resulting elements must be greater than that of the starting element. Fission is a form of nuclear transmutation because the resulting fragments are not the same element as the original atom.

Nuclear fission produces energy for nuclear power and to drive the explosion of nuclear weapons. Both uses are possible because certain substances called nuclear fuels undergo fission when struck by fission neutrons, and in turn emit neutrons when they break apart. This makes possible a self-sustaining chain reaction that releases energy at a controlled rate in a nuclear reactor or at a very rapid uncontrolled rate in a nuclear weapon.

The amount of free energy contained in nuclear fuel is millions of times the amount of free energy contained in a similar mass of chemical fuel such as gasoline, making nuclear fission a very dense source of energy. The products of nuclear fission, however, are on average far more radioactive? than the heavy elements which are normally fissioned as fuel, and remain so for significant amounts of time, giving rise to a nuclear waste problem. Concerns over nuclear waste accumulation and over the destructive potential of nuclear weapons may counterbalance the desirable qualities of fission as an energy source, and give rise to ongoing political debate over nuclear power. Wikipedia, Fission (external link)

See Also

Differentiation
Disintegration
Dissociation
Entropy
Experimental Measurements of Ion Emission
homolysis
Neutral Center


Page last modified on Saturday 26 of May, 2012 09:06:09 MDT

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