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Nuclear Physics Masterclass: Teacher Resources

Free, curriculum-linked resources about cutting-edge research in Nuclear Physics and the applications of nuclear technologies.

Divided into four modules with additional introductory materials, find out more about the programme and see how the material corresponds with your exam board syllabus below. 

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  • Suitable for remote or classroom-based learning.
  • Targeted at students studying Physics in years 12 and 13 / S5 and S6 in Scotland, (ages 16-18).
  • Four modules and additional introductary materials. Encourage your students to complete the full course or just use elements in your teaching. 
  • Content includes videos, activities and student worksheets, with answers for marking.
  • Ask questions of the masterclass team through a forum or via email.  
  • Option for your students to receive certificates of completion if working through the full course.


Introduction to nuclear physics

  • Review your understanding of atoms, isotopes and radiation. 
  • Consider the safety aspects concerning nuclear physics.
  • Refresh your knowledge with practice questions.


Module 1: Energy and Decay

  • Discover the nuclear chart of the isotopes and find out more about the building blocks of our Universe.
  • Follow nuclear decay chains, explore the concept and applications of binding energy, and investigate half-lives.
  • Optional activity to explore the 3D nuclear isotopes chart in Minecraft.


Module 2: Nuclear Astrophysics

  • Explore the lifecycle of stars in terms of stellar nucleosynthesis.
  • Discover the nuclear reactions happening in stars during stellar explosions in an activity demonstrating half-lives and the random nature of radioactive decay.
  • Investigate a model of nuclear forces and apply this to the formation of neutron stars. 


Module 3: Fusion Technology

  • Explore the UK's power generation using real-time data.
  • Find out about methods of creating nuclear fusion as an energy resource.
  • Investigate how the most extreme conditions in the Solar System are created in a laboratory setting and how materials are designed to withstand such temperatures and pressures.


Module 4: Medical Physics

  • Hear from a medical physicist about how nuclear physics shaped her career.  
  • Find out how PET scanners work and discover how cutting-edge research into quantum entanglement is making these more effective.
  • Compare how X-rays and proton beams are used to treat cancer.  

Exam Specifications



The masterclass resources cover all of sections:

  • Constituents of the atom
  • Stable and unstable nuclei
  • Radioactive decay
  • Nuclear instability
  • Mass and energy

In addition, they cover aspects of:

  • Particles, antiparticles and photons
  • Collisions of electrons with atoms
  • Concept of energy levels
  • Supernovae, neutron stars and black holes
  • Imaging techniques
  • Use of high-energy X-rays


The masterclass resources cover: 

  • Topic 8: Nuclear and Particle Physics, statements 130, parts of 133, 137, 138
  • Topic 11: Nuclear Radiation, statements 164, 165, 166, 167, aspects of 169, 1710, 172, 173

Or, if using the Salter-Horner approach:

  • Probing the Heart of Matter, statements 130, parts of 133, 137, 138
  • Reach for the Stars, statements 164, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 172, 173


The masterclass resources cover:

1.3 Component 3: Light, Nuclei and Options

  • 6: Nuclear Decay, parts (a), aspects of (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h) and the specified practical work investigating radioactive decay (a dice analogy)
  • 8: Nuclear Energy, parts (a), (b), (c), (d), (e)
  • 9: Magnetic Fields, aspects of part (j)
  • Option B: Medical Physics, parts (a), aspects of (b), (c), (o), aspects of (p), (r), (t)
  • Option D: Energy and the Environment, part (b)(iv)


The masterclass resources cover:

  • 5.5.1 Stars, parts (c), (e), aspects of (f)
  • 6.4.1 The nuclear atom, parts (b), (d)
  • 6.4.2 Fundamental particles, part (h)
  • 6.4.3 Radioactivity, parts (a), (b)(i), (c), (d), (e)(i), (f)(i), (g), (h)
  • 6.4.4 Nuclear fission and fusion, parts (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (j), (k)
  • 6.5.2 Diagnostic methods in medicine, parts (a), (d), (e)

In addition, students can also try computer modelling, meeting practical skill 1.2.2 (k).


The masterclass resources cover:

  • 5.1.1 Creating Models, parts (a)(iv) and (c)(i)
  • 6.2.2 Ionising radiation and risk, parts (a)(i), (ii) and (iii), (b)(i) and (ii), and (c)(i)

In addition, students can also try computer modelling, meeting practical skill 1.2.2 (k).


The masterclass resources cover:

A2 Unit 3: Oscillations and Nuclei

  • 5: Nuclear Decay parts (a), (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h) as well as an investigation in radioactive decay
  • 6: Nuclear Energy parts (a), (b), (c), (d), (e)

A2 Unit 4: Fields and Options

  • Option B: Medical Physics, parts (c), (o), (q), (s)
  • Option D: Energy and the Environment, part (b)(iv)


Higher Physics

Particles and Waves: Nuclear Reactions

  • Use of nuclear equations to describe radioactive decay, fission (spontaneous and induced) and fusion reactions, with reference to mass and energy equivalence. 
  • Use of an appropriate relationship to solve problems involving the mass loss and the energy released by a nuclear reaction. 
  • E=mc2  
  • Knowledge that nuclear fusion reactors require charged particles at a very high temperature (plasma) which have to be contained by magnetic fields.

Advanced Higher Physics

Rotational motion and astrophysics: Stellar physics

  • Knowledge of the stages in the proton–proton chain (p–p chain) in stellar fusion reactions which convert hydrogen to helium. One example of a p–p chain is:

  • Knowledge that hydrogen fusion in the core of a star supplies the energy that maintains the star’s outward thermal pressure to balance inward gravitational forces. When the hydrogen in the core becomes depleted, nuclear fusion in the core ceases. The gas surrounding the core, however, will still contain hydrogen. Gravitational forces cause both the core, and the surrounding shell of hydrogen to shrink. In a star like the Sun, the hydrogen shell becomes hot enough for hydrogen fusion in the shell of the star. This leads to an increase in pressure which pushes the surface of the star outwards, causing it to cool. At this stage, the star will be in the giant or supergiant regions of a HertzspungRussell (H-R) diagram. 
  • Knowledge that, in a star like the Sun, the core shrinks and will become hot enough for the helium in the core to begin fusion. 
  • Knowledge that every star ultimately becomes a white dwarf, a neutron star or a black hole. The mass of the star determines its eventual fate.



The masterclass resources cover:

Topic 7: Atomic, nuclear and particle physics

  • 7.1 - Discrete energy and radioactivity
  • 7.2 - Nuclear Reactions

Topic 12: Quantum and nuclear physics

  • 12.2 Nuclear physics

Option D: Astrophysics, aspects of:

  • D.1 (Stellar quantities)
  • D.2 (Stellar characteristics and stellar evolution)
  • D.4 (Stellar processes)

Edexcel IAL

The masterclass resources cover:

  • 4.5 Nuclear and Particle Physics, statements 111, parts of 114, 118, 119
  • 5.4 Nuclear Decay, statements 133, 134, 135, 136, aspects of 138, 139, 141, 142


The masterclass resources cover:

  • 11.1 Atoms, nuclei and radiation, statements 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12
  • 23.1 Mass defect and nuclear binding energy, statements 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • 23.2 Radioactive Decay, statements 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • 24.3 PET scanning, statements 1, 2, 3, 4, 6

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