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PROBLEMS on RATES of RADIOACTIVE DECAY

Q1.
(a) What is meant by the 'half-life' of a radioactive substance?
(b) A certain radioactive isotope has a half-life of 15 minutes.
i)
How many half-lives does it have in one hour?
ii)
What fraction of the original mass would remain after one hour?
iii)
What fraction would have decayed after 1.5 hours?
Q2. A student claims a particular isotope has a half-life of 5 days. Sketch a graph the student would
obtain from experimental testing of the radioactive decay of this isotope.
Q3. A student uses a Geiger-Muller tube to record the radiation emitted from a radioactive substance.
Her results are shown below.
Time
(minutes)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

Counts
(per s)
3200
2268
1602
1132
801
566
400
282

(a) Plot a graph of these results and use it to determine the half-life of the substance.
(b) After how many minutes would the counts be under 100?
3
1

18

Q4. A sealed sample of river water contains 8.0 x 10 atoms of tritium (


). Tritium is unstable and
decomposes (to normal hydrogen atoms) with a half-life of 12.5 years. Determine the number of
tritium atoms in the sample after a century has passed.
Q5. A small volume of a solution that contained a radioactive technetium isotope with a half-life of 6
hours is injected into the bloodstream of a patient during a test. The initial count was 9000
disintegrations per minute. After 30 minutes a 1 ml sample of the blood is taken and the count
was determined as 3 disintegrations per minute. Use these results to determine the volume of
blood in the patient's bloodstream.
Q6. A sample of a radioactive material contains 1025 nuclei. Each nucleus emits a beta particle when
it decays (with a half-life of 2.5 days) to a stable nucleus. How many beta particles are emitted in
10 days?
Q7. In the upper atmosphere, C-14 is continually being generated by the bombardment of N-14 by
neutrons from outer space. The C-14 so formed is radioactive and gradually decays back to N-14
with a half-life that is about 5,600 years. During photosynthesis, green plants absorb C-14 (as
carbon dioxide) in proportion to its abundance in the atmosphere along with the non-radioactive
C-12. When the plant dies, it no longer replaces the carbon atoms in its cells with carbon atoms
from the atmosphere and so the intake of C-14 ceases. When this happens, we can consider that
the clock has started for the decay of C-14. The amount of radioactivity in the plant gradually
decreases
(a) What do you understand by the term carbon dating?

(b) An archaeologist discovers an old specimen of wood which shows 6 carbon disintegrations
each minute when tested with a Geiger-Muller tube. Using a specimen of similar but
modern wood, 24 disintegrations per minute were detected. If the half-life of carbon-14 is
5568 years, determine the age of the archaeological specimen.

Q8. The half-life of cobalt-60 is 5.3 years.


(a) If a sample contains 50 g, how much will remain after:
i)
5.3 years?
ii)
21.2 years?
iii)
100 years?
(b) How long does it take for the activity of a sample of cobalt-60 to fall below 1% of its initial
activity?
Q9. Two radioactive substances X and Y initially contain equal numbers of radioactive nuclei. X has
a half-life of one day and Y a half-life of two days. Determine the ratio of the rate of
disintegration of sample X to that of sample Y
(a) initially
(b) after one day
(c) after two days
(d) after ten days.
222

Rn

Q10.
The half-life of
is 3.8 days. Draw a graph of the fraction of a sample remaining
against time.
(a) What fraction of the element remains after 15.2 days?
(b) How long does it take for 20% of the element to decay?
222

Rn

(c) What is the probability that an atom of


234

will decay in 3.8 days?

Th

Q11.
The half-life of
is 24 days. Initially a sample of
(a) How many will remain after 96 days?
(b) How long will it take for 3.0 x 1020 atoms to decay?

234

Th
contains 3.2 x 1020 atoms.

Q12.
The figure shows a graph of the fraction of a
radioactive sample remaining plotted against time.
What is the half-life of the radioactive sample?
Q13.
The half-life of iodine-128 is 25 minutes. How
long would it take the activity of a sample of iodine128 to drop from 3000 disintegrations per second to
375 disintegrations per second?
Q14. The half-life of an isotope of krypton is 3.0
second. A sample of this isotope of krypton contains 4.8 x 1019 atoms. How many atoms of this
sample remain after a time interval of
(a) 3.0 s

(b) 9.0 s
(c) 24.0 s?
(d) What time elapses before the sample contains 1.5 x 1018 atoms?
Q15.
Sketch a graph of decay against time for the isotope of iodine that has a half-life of 25
minutes.
Q16.
Radium-226 has a half-life of 1600 years. If you started with 1.0 g of radium-226, how much
would be left after 3200 years?
Q17. Strontium-82 has a half-life of 25.0 days. If you started with 160 g of strontium-82, in how
many days would you have only 10 g left?
Q18. A radioactive element has a half-life of 20 days. What mass of the element remains after 80
days if the original mass was 4.0 g?
Q19. The half-life of thorium-234 is 24 days.
(a) What fraction of the element remains after 96 days?
(b) How long does it take for 10% of the material to decay?
Q20. One-sixteenth of the original amount of a radioactive material remains after 12 minutes.
What is the half-life of the material?
Q21. A sample of a radioactive element contains 3.0 x 1021 atoms. If the half-life of the element is
1600 years, how many atoms remain after 8000 years?
Q22. A radioactive counter shows that the rate of emission of beta particles from a radioactive
source decreases to half the initial rate in 22 hours. What is the half-life of the element?
Q23. Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8.0 days and undergoes decay. A sample of milk contains 3.0 x
1018 atoms of iodine at the present time. Calculate the number of atoms of iodine remaining after
60 days.
Q24. A radioactive sample contains 500,000 parent nuclei. If the activity is 6 disintegrations per
second (6 Becquerel (Bq)), calculate the decay constant.
Q25. The decay constant for Ra-226 is 4.3 x 10-4 y-1. Calculate the number of atoms in a sample of
Ra-226 that has an activity of 3 kBq. (Hint: convert the decay constant to s -1 to match the
activity.)
Q26. The half-life of Ra-226 is 1620 years.
(a) Calculate the decay constant.
(b) If there are 10.0 g of Ra-226 today, how much will be left in 100 years?
Q27. In a living tree, each gram of total carbon (i.e. including all of the isotopes of carbon) decays
at the rate of 960 counts/hour/gram. In a wood dating experiment, 3.5 g of carbon from a sample
of ancient wood gave a count rate of 805 counts per hour, from the C-14, after allowing for
background radiation. (Background radiation comes from cosmic rays, natural radioactivity of
the Earth and a small amount that is man-made.) The half-life of C-14 is approximately 5,600
years. Estimate the age of the wood.
ANSWERS
Q1.
(a)
(b)

i)
ii)
iii)

4
1/16
63/64 (Only 1/64 of the mass is left; therefore 63/64 of the mass has decayed.)

Q2.
Q3.
(a) 2.00 mins (average of at least three measurements: e.g. 2.05 min, 2.05 min, 1.90 min.)
(b) 10 mins
Q4. 3.1 x 1016
Q5. 2.8 litres
Q6. 9.4 x 1024
Q7.
(a)
(b) 11,136 years
Q8.
(a)
i)
25 g
ii)
3.125 g
iii)
1.05 x 10-4 g
(b) 35.2 years
Q9.
(a) 1 : 0.50
(b) 1 : 0.71
(c) 1 : 1
(d) 1 : 16
Q10.
(a) 1/16
(b) 1.22 days
(c)
Q11.
(a) 2.0 x 1019
(b) 96 days
Q12.
1.3 hours
Q13.
75 min
Q14.
(a) 2.4 x 1019
(b) 6.0 x 1018
(c) 1.9 x 1017
(d) 15 s
Q15.
Q16.
0.25g
Q17. 100 days
Q18. 0.25 g
Q19.
(a) 1/16
(b) 3.6 days
Q20. 3 minutes
Q21. 9.4 x 1019
Q22.
Q23.
Q24.
Q25.
Q26.
(a)
(b)
Q27.

22 hours
1.7 x 1016 atoms of iodine
1.2 x 10-5 s-1
2.2 x 1014 atoms
4.3 x 10-4 y-1
9.58 g
11,200 years