ANS is committed to advancing, fostering, and promoting the development and application of nuclear sciences and technologies to benefit society.
Explore the many uses for nuclear science and its impact on energy, the environment, healthcare, food, and more.
Aerospace Nuclear Science & Technology
Organized to promote the advancement of knowledge in the use of nuclear science and technologies in the aerospace application. Specialized nuclear-based technologies and applications are needed to advance the state-of-the-art in aerospace design, engineering and operations to explore planetary bodies in our solar system and beyond, plus enhance the safety of air travel, especially high speed air travel. Areas of interest will include but are not limited to the creation of nuclear-based power and propulsion systems, multifunctional materials to protect humans and electronic components from atmospheric, space, and nuclear power system radiation, human factor strategies for the safety and reliable operation of nuclear power and propulsion plants by non-specialized personnel and more.
2021 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting
June 14–16, 2021
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Join ANS's watch party for a virtual field trip into outer space
Help ANS celebrate the launch of our newest virtual field trip, “Nuclear Frontiers: Powering Possibility,” by attending tomorrow's online watch party!
The virtual field trip explores the amazing ways that nuclear science is fueling earthly innovation and deep space exploration. The field trip video, which was made available earlier this month, is part of ANS’s Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World program The Navigating Nuclear program, which was started in August 2018, has already reached more than 1.5 million K-12 students.
Register now for the watch party for the virtual field trip, to be held tomorrow, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT).
Radiation is simply the transmission of energy from a source via waves or particles.
There are many kinds of radiation that move in waves, most of them very familiar to you, like radio waves, visible light, and x-rays. They are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Radiation can also be described as non-ionizing or ionizing.
Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to excite atoms, making them move more rapidly. Microwave ovens work by exciting water molecules, creating friction. The friction creates heat, and the heat warms the food. Other examples of non-ionizing sources include radio transmissions, cell phones, and visible light.
Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from their orbits, creating ions. Examples of ionizing sources are high-level ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays.
Ionizing radiation happens when an unstable atom (a radioactive isotope of an element) emits particles or waves of particles to become more stable. This process is called radioactive decay.
Not all of the atoms of a radioactive isotope decay at the same time. Instead, the atoms decay at a rate that is characteristic to the isotope. The rate of decay is a fixed rate called a half-life.
The half-life of a radioactive isotope refers to the amount of time required for half of a quantity of a radioactive isotope to decay. For example, carbon-14 has a half-life of 5730 years, which means that if you take one gram of carbon-14, half of it will decay in 5730 years. Different isotopes have different half-lives.
Radioactive decay is random; we can't tell which atoms in an isotope sample will decay. But, it is also predictable and exponential, so we can determine how long it will take for a sample to completely decay based on its half-life.
There are four basic types of ionizing radiation--alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron--and each has unique properties.
Alpha radiation happens when the unstable atom emits two protons and two neutrons—basically a helium nucleus. The original atom, with fewer protons and neutrons, becomes a different element.
Compared to other forms of ionizing radiation, alpha particles are large and heavy. They can’t travel very far, so they are useful in things like smoke detectors. They can be stopped by a piece of paper, your skin, or even just a few inches of air.
Beta radiation is when a proton in an unstable atom becomes an electron. Because it loses a proton, the original atom becomes a different element.
Beta particles are much smaller than alpha particles, so they can travel farther and penetrate deeper. Beta particles are sometimes used in eye surgery.
Gamma radiation and x-rays, are high-energy waves that can travel great distances at the speed of light. Both can penetrate deeply into matter.
X-rays are stopped by dense materials like bone, tumors, or lead. This makes them useful for medical diagnosis.
Gamma rays can penetrate further with higher energy. Gamma radiation can be used to precisely target and eliminate tumors; it also has a number of uses in industry, agriculture, pest-control, and more. Gamma rays be stopped by several inches of lead.
Neutron radiation is created as a result of fission reactions and happens in nuclear reactors. Neutrons are extremely high energy, so need many feet of dense materials like water or concrete to stop them. Neutron radiation can make other materials radioactive and is used to create the radioisotopes used in medical treatments.
Learn about the beneficial uses of radiation
Last modified April 5, 2021, 2:07pm CDT