Nuclear Reactions – Basic Classification
A nuclear reaction
is considered to be the process in which two nuclear particles (two nuclei or a nucleus and a nucleon) interact to produce two or more nuclear particles or ˠ-rays (gamma rays
). Thus, a nuclear reaction must cause a transformation of at least one nuclide to another. Sometimes if a nucleus interacts with another nucleus or particle without changing the nature of any nuclide, the process is referred to a nuclear scattering, rather than a nuclear reaction.
In order to understand the nature of nuclear reactions, the classification according to the time scale of of these reactions has to be introduced. Interaction time is critical for defining the reaction mechanism.
There are two extreme scenarios for nuclear reactions (not only neutron nuclear reactions):
- A projectile and a target nucleus are within the range of nuclear forces for the very short time allowing for an interaction of a single nucleon only. These type of reactions are called the direct nuclear reactions.
- A projectile and a target nucleus are within the range of nuclear forces for the time allowing for a large number of interactions between nucleons. These type of reactions are called the compound nucleus reactions.
In fact, there is always some non-direct (multiple internuclear interaction) component in all reactions, but the direct reactions have this component limited.
Nuclear reactions, that occur in a time comparable to the time of transit
of an incident particle across the nucleus (~10-22
s), are called direct nuclear reactions.
Interaction time is critical for defining the reaction mechanism. The very short interaction time allows for an interaction of a single nucleon
only (in extreme cases). In fact, there is always some non-direct (a multiple internuclear interaction) component in all reactions, but the direct reactions have this component limited. To limit the time available for multiple internuclear interactions, the reaction have to occur at high energy.
Direct reactions have another property which is very important. Products of a direct reaction are not distributed isotropically in angle, but they are forward focused. This reflects the fact that the projectiles makes only one, or very few, collisions with nucleons in the target nucleus and its forward momentum is not transferred to an entire compound state.
The cross-sections for direct reactions vary smoothly and slowly with energy in contrast to the compound nucleus reactions and these cross-sections are comparable to the geometrical cross-sections of target nuclei. Types of direct reactions:
- Elastic scattering in which a passing particle and a targes stay in their ground states.
- Inelastic scattering in which a passing particle changes its energy state. For example the (p, p’) reaction.
- Transfer reactions in which one or more nucleons are transferred to the othes nucleus. These reactions are further classified to as:
- Stripping reaction in which one or more nucleons are transferred to a target nucleus from passing particle. For example the neutron stripping in the (d, p) reaction.
- Pick-up reaction in which one or more nucleons are transferred from a target nucleus to a passing particle. For example the neutron pick-up in the (p, d) reaction
- Break-up reaction in which a breakup of a projectile into two or more fragments occurs.
- Knock-out reaction in which a single nucleon or a light cluster is removed from the projectile by a collision with the target.
Example: This threshold reaction of fast neutron with an isotope 10B is one of the ways, how radioactive tritium in primary circuit of all PWRs is generated.