19+ Nuclear Force Examples: Detailed Explanations


The nuclear force is one among the four fundamental forces that exist in the universe. This article gives a detailed explanation on several nuclear force examples.

Some of the common examples of nuclear force are:

Nuclear Force Examples: Detailed Explanations

Nuclear reaction in nuclear power plants

Nuclear power plants generate electricity from the energy constituted within the nucleus of an atom. The nuclear force binding the neutrons and protons in the nucleus is tremendously strong enough that the energy due to the force is utilized for electricity generation. This is one of the solutions to meet the global need and demand of energy.

Radioactive decay

Radioactive decay takes place when an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by radiation and becomes stable. The underlying force behind the radioactive decay is weak nuclear force or weak interaction. The most common three types of radioactive decay are: alpha decay, beta decay and gamma decay. During radioactive decay, a balancing occurs between nuclear forces and electromagnetic forces.

Radiation emission from the Sun

Nuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium taking place inside the Sun is responsible for the radiation energy of the Sun. Nuclear forces play an important role in the fusion reactions taking place in the core of the Sun. The nuclear fusion is what keeps the Sun from collapsing due to its own gravitational weight.

Archaeological application – Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating is a technique used in several archaeological applications that measures radiation profile of materials to estimate the age of biological specimens like wooden archaeological artifacts or ancient remains of living organisms. This method uses carbon isotopes to estimate the age. Carbon-14 is the radioactive isotope of carbon which undergoes decay with time and measuring the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 in a sample at present can be used to determine how much time has passed since it was active or alive.

nuclear force examples
Radiocarbon Dating
Image Credits: Flickr

Nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine is an evolutionary branch and several radioactive elements are used in diagnosis and therapeutics, treatment and disease management. Radionuclides are administered to patients for diagnosis and therapy. In radionuclide therapy, lethal radiation is delivered to the targeted tissue minimizing the dose to the surrounding tissues. Nuclear forces that bind the nucleons are the root of radiation used in medicine.

Nuclear Medicine
Image Credits: Flickr

In devices for testing the moisture content of soil for road construction

An estimate and knowledge on the density as well as moisture content of the compacted layers of soil is very essential prior to road construction. Nuclear techniques have been beneficial and effective for the purpose. Nuclear moisture density gauges are the testing devices that offer a simple, speedy and non-destructive approach to measure the moisture content and determine whether the soil is suitable for road construction.

Measuring paper or plastic thickness during manufacturing

In the manufacturing industries of materials with specific thickness like paper, plastic films or aluminium foil, radiation is used to measure as well as control the thickness. Of all the radiations, beta radiation is suitable for the process. The radioactive isotope commonly used for this thickness measurement is Strontium-90 as it has a half life of about 29 years and hence, it need not be replaced frequently. A detector measures the amount of beta radiation that passes through the material, compares it with the required thickness and corrects the material thickness.

To check the height of fluid when filling bottles in factories

Gamma radiation is used to determine the level of fluid in containers in factories. A radioactive source, commonly an isotope, is kept on one side of the vessel and the radiation emitted is detected from the other side of the vessel. The level of the fluid in the vessel is determined by the amount of attenuation of the gamma radiation.

Smoke detectors

In smoke detectors, radioactive isotopes that emit alpha particles are required. Americium-241 is one such radioactive source commonly used. In a smoke detector, alpha particles ionize the air passing through a chamber and an electric current is produced. In case smoke is present, ionization doesn’t occur and electric current drops.

Self-luminous light source for emergency signs in aircrafts and public buildings

Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, is used to create light in emergency signs in aircrafts, public buildings, etc. Beta radiation from Tritium interacts with a phosphor material thereby emitting light and this is known as radioluminescence. Hence tritium is a self-luminous light source in several applications.

Self-luminous Tritium Light Source
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In agricultural sector to control pests

Sterile Insect Technique is the primary method used to control pests in the agricultural sector for growing healthy crops and maintaining them. This technique makes use of male insects which are reared massively and sterilizing them before releasing them to the region where pest is to be controlled.

To measure the efficiency of fertilizer uptake

The isotopes nitrogen-15 and phosphorus-32 are used to determine the amount of nitrogen captured by the crops from the atmosphere through nitrogen fixation. Similarly, movement of nutrients in the crop is determined from these radioactive isotopes.

To increase shelf life of food products

Gamma radiation from radioactive sources is used to irradiate food products so that their shelf life can be increased. Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope is commonly used. The Gamma rays are capable of killing bacteria, parasites, moulds as well as insects, along with inhibiting germination and premature ripening in several fruits and vegetables.

Irradiated Food To Increase Shelf Life
Image Credits: Flickr

To measure effluent and pollution discharge from factories and sewerage plants

Radioactive tracers are extensively used to measure any effluent and pollution discharge from industries as well as sewerage plants.

To measure movement of sand around harbours, rivers and bays

Radioactive tracers have been used in bays, harbours and rivers to measure the movement of sand. This helps in the gathering the necessary data for constructing harbours. The radioactive tracer with the same specific gravity, size and diameter of the sand is put on the sea bed for this purpose.

Intense heat in the Earth’s interior

The nuclear force in the centre of the Earth is responsible for the high thermal energy. The Earth’s core is at several high degrees of temperature due to the nuclear reactions.

Burning of stars

The importance of nuclear force and reactions can be very well observed in stars and galaxies. The light and heat emitted by the stars in the galaxies has its origin from the thermonuclear fusion reactions inside the stars.

Insect control

Cobalt-60 is the commonly used radioactive isotope for controlling insects as they emit gamma radiation.

Leak detection

Beta radiation is used to detect leaks in underground pipelines. The main technique is that a radioactive isotope which is a source of beta radiation, is injected to the fluid. Now the region above the ground where a high intensity of beta radiation is detected will be indicating the source of leakage in the pipeline.

Deeksha Dinesh

Hello, I am Deeksha Dinesh, currently pursuing post-graduation in Physics with a specialization in the field of Astrophysics. I like to deliver concepts in a simpler way for the readers.

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