In this area of study students explore the nature of matter, and consider the origins of atoms, time and space. They examine the currently accepted theory of what constitutes the nucleus, the forces within the nucleus and how energy is derived from the nucleus.
On completion of this unit the student should be able explain the origins of atoms, the nature of subatomic particles and how energy can be produced by atoms.
Origins of atoms
• describe the Big Bang as a currently held theory that explains the origins of the Universe
• describe the origins of both time and space with reference to the Big Bang Theory
• explain the changing Universe over time due to expansion and cooling
• apply scientific notation to quantify and compare the large ranges of magnitudes of time, distance, temperature and mass considered when investigating the Universe
• explain the change of matter in the stages of the development of the Universe including inflation, elementary particle formation, annihilation of anti-matter and matter, commencement of nuclear fusion, cessation of fusion and the formation of atoms.
Particles in the nucleus
• explain nuclear stability with reference to the forces that operate over very small distances
• describe the radioactive decay of unstable nuclei with reference to half-life
• model radioactive decay as random decay with a particular half-life, including mathematical modelling with reference to whole half-lives
• apply a simple particle model of the atomic nucleus to explain the origin of α, β-, β+ and γ radiation, including changes to the number of nucleons
• explain nuclear transformations using decay equations involving α, β-, β+ and γ radiation
• analyse decay series diagrams with reference to type of decay and stability of isotopes
• relate predictions to the subsequent discoveries of the neutron, neutrino, positron and Higgs boson
• describe quarks as components of subatomic particles
• distinguish between the two types of forces holding the nucleus together: the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force
• compare the nature of leptons, hadrons, mesons and baryons
• explain that for every elementary matter particle there exists an antimatter particle of equal mass and opposite charge, and that if a particle and its antiparticle come into contact they will annihilate each other to create radiation.
Energy from the atom
• explain nuclear energy as energy resulting from the conversion of mass: E = mc2
• compare the processes of nuclear fusion and nuclear fission
• explain, using a binding energy curve, why both fusion and fission are reactions that produce energy
• explain light as an electromagnetic wave that is produced by the acceleration of charges
• describe the production of synchrotron radiation by an electron radiating energy at a tangent to its circular path
• model the production of light as a result of electron transitions between energy levels within an atom.