Technological Application of Nuclear and Particle Physics -Segbefia Celestine, 28th April, 2020

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Technological Application of Nuclear and Particle Physics -Segbefia Celestine, 28th April, 2020


The study of particle and nuclear physics impinges on our everyday lives in such a way that both aspects of physics cannot be underestimated. It is therefore appropriate to discuss some technological applications of these two branches of physics. This paper established that nuclear energy originating from both fusion and fission, nuclear medicine and radiation sterilization are in fact the three main merits obtained from nuclear and particle physics with the advancement in technology. Also,concepts and mode of operation of nuclear reactors based on nuclear fission were presented.

Keywords: Nuclear fission, Nuclear energy, Nuclear medicine, Radiation Sterilization


Generally, nuclear physics deals with the branch of physics that studies the concepts of atomic nuclei, their constituents as well as interactions. Fundamental discoveries in nuclear physics have led to several applications in many fields. Nuclear physics is applicable in several fields such as nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging, radiocarbon dating and many others. Particle physics on the other hand is the study of fundamental particles and their interactions. Concepts of fundamental particles and their interactions is encoded in what is term as the Standard Model of Elementary Particle Physics. According to the Standard Model of elementary particles, elementary particles can be grouped into two forms namely, the fermions and bosons. The fermions are the spin half particles which obeys the Pauli’s exclusion principle whereas the bosons are spin one particles which obeys the Bose-Einstein Statistics. The four main fundamental interactions in nature are strong force, weak force, electromagnetic force and force of gravity. The force of gravity is however is not incorporated in describing particle interactions because on the scale of experiments in particle physics, gravity is by far the weakest among all the other fundamental interactions, although it is dominant on the scale of the universe In fact, according to [1], particle physics originated from nuclear physics and the two fields cannot be underestimated. This implies that the studies of particle and nuclear physics must go together, hence are typically learned and taught in close association. With the recent advancement in technological tools, both particle and nuclear physics have proven to play a vital role thereby enriching the lives of mankind in our modern society. This paper therefore present a review of the technological applications of both particle and nuclear physics in the next section is a comprehensive literature review on the areas where nuclear physics and particle physics can be applied

Literature Review on Nuclear and Particle Physics

There are several theoretical and experimental carried out by different authors to study the applications of both nuclear and particle physics in several contexts. First, a research study by [2] reviewed the applications of inversion scattering in nuclear physics where they emphasized on the various ways in which inversion scattering could be used to understand nuclear interactions. A conceptual applications of neural networks in hadron physics is discussed in [3] where the Bayesian approach for the feed-forward neural networks was reviewed. Also, [4] discusses Monte Carlo simulations calculations in Nuclear medicine where concepts from both nuclear and particle physics are utilized for the purpose of diagnostic imaging. Some physical characteristics of radionuclides of interest in nuclear medicine have been discussed in [5]. While advanced theoretical principles applied in nuclear medicine radiation dosimetry has been reviewed by [6], [7] also presents therapeutic applications of Monte Carlo simulations in nuclear medicine. In [7], concepts of medical imaging techniques for radiation dosimetry where for instance the determination of radioactivity in both space and time was reviewed. Furthermore, measurements and analysis of production cross sections for nuclear γ-ray over the incident energy range E=30-66 MeV was reviewed in [8] where experimental data for several new γ-ray lines was also reported and discussed. High-Precision Half-Life Measurements for the Superallowed Fermi β+ Emitters 14O and 18Ne was also reviewed by [9]. Several other applications of nuclear and particle physics can be found in [10, 11]

Main Uses of Nuclear and Particle Physics

Globally, nuclear fuel, medicine, and sterilisation are the principal applications of nuclear and particle physics in terms of economic and social benefits. Nuclear power includes the use of nuclear reactions that release nuclear energy for heat generation, which is the most commonly used in steam turbines to generate electricity at a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power can be produced by reactions to nuclear fission, nuclear decay, and nuclear fusion. According to [12], from about 440 power plants, nuclear energy now generates about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity. In comparison, nuclear medicine helps us in the treatment and diagnosis of illness in human bodies. Also, radiation sterilisation helps to destroy micro-organisms in our food. Areas where nuclear and particle physics play critical roles in nuclear medicine include magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, proton emission tomography and X-ray radiography. Figure 1 below shows the 2019 world electricity levels displayed on the left while a magnetic resonance imaging scan device is shown on the right.

The next section of this paper focuses on nuclear power reactors since nuclear power plants make use of nuclear fission, the process of splitting an atom in two.

Nuclear fission reactors

Nuclear reactors work on the nuclear fission principle, the process in which a large atomic nucleus splits into two smaller parts. The nuclear fragments emit neutrons, other subatomic particles, and photons in very excited states. Then, the emitted neutrons that cause new fissions, which in effect yields more neutrons. Such a continuous self-sustaining sequence of fissions reflects a reaction to the fission chain. This method produces a significant amount of energy and this energy is the foundation of nuclear power systems. Many distinct forms of reactor are available. This paper briefly addresses the thermal reactor, which uses uranium as the fuel and low-energy neutrons for forming a chain reaction. A nuclear fission cycle of Uranium 235 is to the left of Figure2 and a schematic diagram of the key elements of a conventional thermal reactor to the right. A thermal reactor is made up of fissile material (fuel elements), rods of control and moderator. Uranium is the most widely used fuel, and many thermal reactors use natural uranium, although it has just 0.7% of 235U.. A 2 MeV primary fission neutron, however, has very little chance of causing fission in a 238U. nucleus. Instead, it is much more likely to propagate inelastically, leaving the nucleus in an excited state, and after a few such collisions, the neutron energy will be below the fission induction level of 1.2 MeV in 238U.. The centre of a reactor is the main unit in a nuclear reactor and is where all the heat energy is produced. This is done by a mechanism known as the nuclear fission. In this case Uranium-235 is the fissile material (i.e. the fuel for the process). The heart of the reactor consists of three parts (i)fuel rods-where the fissile material is stored,(ii) control rods-made of boron, these control the reaction rate and (iii) the moderator-slowing down the neutrons created during the reaction.

Nuclear fusion reactors

Also known as thermonuclear reactors are fusion reactors which generate electrical power from the energy released in a nuclear fusion reaction. The use of nuclear fusion reactions for electricity generation appears to be very theoretical, according to[17]. The method of producing energy in a fusion reactor requires the joining of two light atoms together. As two nuclei combine, a small amount of mass is converted into an energy of large amount. In reality, Stars, including the Sun, are plasma’s that produce energy by fusion reactions through a process called stellar fusion. Stellar fusion is the mechanism by which elements within stars are formed by mixing the protons and neutrons from the nuclei of lighter elements together. Figure 3 below shows the base structure for nuclear fusion on the left and a basic thermonuclear fusion reactor on the right side.

Summary and Conclusion

The primary goal of this paper was to review the technological applications of nuclear and particle physics. This paper seeks to present a brief literature review on areas where nuclear and particle physics can be theoretically and experimentally applied, then presents three main uses of nuclear and particle physics at the economical level. In summary, the findings from this paper reveal that nuclear energy, nuclear medicine and radiation sterilization are the three main technologically advanced implications both nuclear and particle physics have on natural beings. In conclusion, the study of particle and nuclear physics lead to advance implementation of technological tools for the benefits of mankind.


  1. W. R. Leo, Techniques for nuclear and particle physics experiments: a how-to approach, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
  2. V. Kukulin, R. Mackintosh, The application of inversion to nuclear scattering, Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics 30 (2) (2004) R1.
  3. K. M. Graczyk, C. Juszczak, Applications of Neural Networks in Hadron Physics, J. Phys. G42 (3) (2015) 034019. arXiv:1409.5244, doi:10.1088/0954-3899/42/3/034019.
  4. M. Ljungberg, S.-E. Strand, M. A. King, Monte Carlo calculations in nuclear medicine: Applications in diagnostic imaging, CRC Press, 2012.
  5. R. Chandra, A. Rahmim, Nuclear medicine physics: the basics, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2017
  6. B. McParland, Nuclear medicine radiation dosimetry: Advanced theoretical principles, 2010. doi:10.1007/978-1-84882-126-2.
  7. H. Zaidi, G. Sgouros, Therapeutic applications of monte carlo calculations in nuclear medicine, Medical Physics 30. doi:10.1201/9781420033250.
  8. W. Yahia-Cherif, et al., Measurement and analysis of nuclear γ-ray production cross sections in proton interactions with Mg, Si and Fe nuclei abundant in astrophysical sites over the incident energy range E = 30−66 MeVarXiv:2001.07087.[
  9. A. Laffoley, C. Svensson, C. Andreoiu, R. Austin, G. Ball, B. Blank, H. Bouzomita, D. Cross, A. Diaz Varela, R. Dunlop, P. Finlay, A. Garnsworthy, P. Garrett, J. Giovinazzo, G. Grinyer, G. Hackman, B. Hadinia, D. Jamieson, S. Ketelhut, C. Unsworth, High-precision half-life measurements for the superallowed fermi β+ emitters 14o and 18ne, Physical Review C 92. doi:10.1103/PhysRevC.92.025502.
  10. S. Bagchi, et al., Observation of isoscalar multipole strengths in exotic doubly-magic 56Ni in inelastic α scattering in inverse kinematics, Phys. Lett. B 751 (2015) 371–375. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2015.10.060.
  11. E. Pollacco, et al., GET: A generic electronics system for TPCs and nuclear physics instrumentation, Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A 887 (2018) 81–93. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2018.01.020.
  12. I. Hore-Lacy, Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century: World Nuclear University Press, Elsevier, 2010.
  13. J. Farfan, C. Breyer, Structural changes of global power generation capacity towards sustainability and the risk of stranded investments supported by a sustainability indicator, Journal of Cleaner Production 141 (2017) 370–384.
  14. Z. Tan, Advances in real-time phase-contrast flow mri and multi-echo radial flash, Ph.D. thesis (05 2016). doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4803.8004.
  15. T. Busch, Nuclear data story-at nd2016: Tackling the challenges of nuclear data in the future.
  16. B. R. Martin, G. Shaw, Nuclear and particle physics: an introduction, John Wiley & Sons, 2019
  17. P. T. Farnsworth, Method and apparatus for producing nuclear-fusion reactions, uS Patent 3,386,883 (Jun. 4 1968).
  18. M. O. Hagler, M. Kristiansen, An introduction to controlled thermonuclear fusion, Lexington, Mass., DC Heath and Co., 1977. 207 p.


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