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41 Cards in this Set

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alpha decay
A decay process in which a nucleus gives off an alpha particle (a helium nucleus) and thereby changes to become the nucleus of a different element.
atomic mass
The sum of the number of protons and the number of neutrons in an atom's nucleus.
atomic mass unit
One-twelfth the mass of a carbon-12 atom. Approximately the mass of one proton.
atomic number
The number of protons in the nucleus of an element.
beta decay
A decay process in which a nucleus gives off an electron, and thereby changes to become the nucleus of a different element.
electrostatic force
A force of attraction or repulsion between two objects, one of which must be electrically charged.
gamma decay
A decay process in which a nucleus gives off a high-energy gamma ray but doesn't otherwise change its form.
isotope
A particular form of an element with a specific number of neutrons.
nucleon
Any particle that lives in the nucleus. Therefore, a proton or a neutron.
radioactive
A state in which a nucleus, or collection of nuclei, spontaneously breaks apart, giving off high-energy particles.
radioactivity
The emission of high-energy particles or energy by a nucleus that has broken apart.
strong nuclear force
The force that holds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus.
transmutation
A process that changes one element into another.
binding energy
The energy that binds together protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. This energy is created by the strong nuclear force.
daughter element
The element that remains after radioactive decay.
half-life
The time it takes for exactly half an amount of a parent element to decay into a daughter element.
law of conservation of charge
In a nuclear reaction, the total charge on the left side of the equation equals the total charge on the right side of the equation.
law of conservation of energy
Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It may be transformed from one form into another, but the total amount of energy in a closed system never changes.
parent element
A radioactive element, before it decays.
radiometric dating
Using the half-lives of radioactive substances to determine the age of an object.
biomass
Plant matter, such as trees, grass, and crops, used to produce energy.
chain reaction
A series of fission reactions in which neutrons produced by one fission cause additional fissions to occur.
controlled nuclear reaction
A nuclear reaction in which the rate of reaction is limited to prevent it from getting out of control.
critical mass
The minimum amount of material required to produce a nuclear chain reaction.
deuterium
A hydrogen nucleus with one neutron and one proton, giving it a nucleon number of two.
fission
The splitting of a large, unstable nucleus into two smaller nuclei.
controlled fission reaction
A fission reaction in which one fission leads to exactly one additional fission.
uncontrolled fission reaction
A fission reaction in which one fission leads to more than one fission.
fossil fuels
Any forms of fuel produced from the remains of living creatures.
fuel cell
A device that converts energy from a chemical reaction to electric energy.
fusion
The joining of two small nuclei to form one larger nucleus.
geothermal energy
Energy that comes from heat deep within the earth.
generation
Each step in the series of a chain reaction.
greenhouse gas
A gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect -- the warming of Earth's atmosphere due to gases in the air.
inertial confinement
A process that involves heating and compressing a fuel pellet to begin fusion.
magnetic confinement
The containment of nuclear fuel for fusion by a magnetic field.
passive solar heat
Heat that has been stored in thermal mass.
photovoltaics
The production of energy directly from sunlight.
runaway nuclear reaction
A nuclear reaction in which the rate of reaction is uncontrolled and generally increasing rapidly.
tritium
A hydrogen nucleus with two neutrons and one proton in the nucleus, giving it a nucleon number of three.
wind turbine
A windmill-shaped device that converts kinetic energy of wind into electricity.