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Kristin has an M.S. in Chemistry and has taught many at many levels, including introductory and AP Chemistry.
Nuclear chemistry is a field of chemistry that deals with the use of radioactive isotopes and other nuclear reactions. Nuclear reactions provide us with enormous amounts of energy. Radioactive isotopes are used to determine the age of old artifacts, diagnose disease, and treat certain types of medical conditions. In this lesson, we are going to take a closer look at each of these applications of nuclear chemistry.
What can the sun do that we can't? The answer is 'run on nuclear fusion.' Nuclear fusion occurs when two or more atoms fuse together to form a single, heavier atom. Keep in mind that during this process, not all of the mass is conserved. The 'heavier' atom that is produced is actually lighter than the two individual pieces, which means that mass is lost. Because mass and energy are tied together, when mass is lost, energy is lost, or emitted. In a fusion reaction, massive amounts of energy are emitted.
Currently, there is no feasible way to harness this energy from fusion and use it to power our infrastructure, but several years down the road it is possible that it could supply us with the energy we need. In a way, we are able to use some of the energy from fusion reactions. The sun is essentially a fusion reactor creating energy by fusing hydrogen atoms together to form helium, and the sun is our primary source of energy.