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(NS) Nuclear Physics - PHY00057H

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  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Andrei Andreyev
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Related modules

Pre-requisite modules

  • None

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • discuss the properties of the particles in the simplest baryon and meson multiplets discuss the origin of the structure of the simplest baryon and meson multiplets
  • infer the main properties of particles from their quark sub-structure
  • introduce basic properties of nuclei such as mass, size and binding energy.
  • examine how the latter can be understood in terms of the liquid drop model of the nucleus. discuss the energetics of alpha, beta and gamma decay. Particular attention will be paid to sequential radioactive decays and the concept of secular equilibrium.
  • The physics of nuclear fission and fusion will be discussed as well as the principles of operation of fission and fusion reactors.
  • explain the synthesis of the elements using basic nuclear astrophysics.
  • cover the basic properties of the nuclear force and the boson model that is used to explain its origins.
  • introduce one of the core models of the nucleus (nuclear shell model) and examples given to illustrate its predictive power for both ground state spins/ parities and magnetic moments. The model will be used to indicate how some excited states can be explained.

Module learning outcomes

Discuss the properties of the particles in the simplest baryon and meson multiplets

Discuss the origin of the structure of the simplest baryon and meson multiplets

Derive the main properties of particles from their quark sub-structure

Explain which interactions in nature occur and which do not from knowledge of the conservation laws

Define nuclear binding energy and be able to do simple calculations

Define the terms in the semi-empirical mass formula and be able to use it to explain the chart of the nuclides and perform calculations.

Define proton and neutron separation energy and carry out simple calculations

Explain the concept of driplines and neutron/ proton halo nuclei

Derive the kinematics formula for a simple two body nuclear reaction and use it to solve problems

Define secular/ transient equilibrium and perform simple calculations based on sequential radioactive decay.

Deduce the Q-value equation for a nuclear reaction or decay process and carry out calculations based on the formulae.

Define the concept of nuclear cross-section and relate this to a simple formula for the rate of nuclear reactions and be able to perform calculations using the formula.

Discuss the physics of the nuclear fission and fusion processes

Define what is meant by prompt and delayed neutrons, spontaneous and induced fission and activation energy and be able to predict whether isotopes with fission with thermal neutrons.

Explain the basics of how thermal fission reactors operate

Explain the key hydrogen burning processes in stars (PP chain, CNO cycle) and explain what is meant by the r, s, and r-p processes of nucleo-synthesis and how heavy elements are believed to be created

Outline some of the basic properties of the nuclear force and indicate evidence for these

Discuss the concept of exchange particles and how their mass affects the range of the force

Outline experimental evidence for the nuclear shell model.

Know of and be able to use the basic rules of the simple single-particle shell model to predict ground state spins and parities of odd and odd-odd nuclei

Use the simple single-particle shell model to obtain configurations for low-lying excited states in nuclei.

Explain why the shell model may fail to describe the observed states of some nuclei.

Module content


  • Standard Model concept. Classification of particles: hadrons (baryons and mesons), leptons, exchange particles.
  • Brief outline of main interactions seen in nature: The Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic and Gravitational Interactions and their properties.
  • An introduction to conservation laws including isospin, strong hypercharge and lepton number.
  • Basic definitions and concepts; masses, radii, nuclear binding energy. Halo nuclei
  • Gross properties of nuclei - semi-empirical mass formula, nuclide chart, limits of stability, neutron/ proton separation energies, drip lines.
  • Nuclear reactions – kinematics, notation, definition of types of reaction - elastic, inelastic, transfer, compound nucleus processes, reaction cross-sections, value for reactions.
  • Unstable nuclei – decay chains, secular equilibrium,
  • Application to radioactive dating, kinematics and Q-value for alpha and beta decay, double beta decay. Internal conversion and gamma decay of excited nuclear states Nuclear Force and properties of nuclei - Introduction to the properties of the force, Boson field theory of the nuclear force.
  • Evidence for shell structure in nuclei; introduction to the simple single-particle nuclear shell model and its use to predict ground state and excited state spins and parities, brief discussion of the regions where the shell model approach is valid and reasons for its failure
  • Fission: - physics of the fission process, prompt and delayed neutrons, fission and the liquid drop model, definitions of spontaneous, induced fission and activation energy. Basics principles of reactor physics
  • Fusion: - Physics of nuclear fusion
  • Creation of elements in the Universe: - discussion of phases of PP chain, CNO cycle for buring Hydrogen to Helium, discussion of processes leading to the creation of heavier elements.


Task Length % of module mark
Nuclear Physics Assignment 1
N/A 40
Nuclear Physics Assignment 2
N/A 60

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Nuclear Physics Assignment 1
N/A 40
Nuclear Physics Assignment 2
N/A 60

Module feedback

Our policy on how you receive feedback for formative and summative purposes is contained in our Department Handbook.

Indicative reading

Krane K S: Introductory nuclear physics (Wiley) ****

Heyde K: Basic ideas and concepts in nuclear physics (Taylor & Francis/IoP Publishing) **

Burcham W E and Jobes M: Nuclear and particle physics (Prentice Hall/Longman) **

Lilley J: Nuclear physics principles and applications (Wiley) **

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.