by Iva Raynova. Published: 31 August 2016

EduKit is a software environment intended to help students learn about the different nuclear phenomena through a dynamical and graphical interaction. It is based on the ROOT framework and currently it is available only for Unix operating systems. In the near future, Windows users will also be able to install it. So far it includes four lessons: the Decay Law, Alpha Decay, Beta Decay and Nuclear Fission.

EduKit was developed by Mihai Niculescu from the Institute of Space Science in Bucharest, Romania. It was created as an exercise for three Bachelor students in nuclear physics from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Bucharest: Dan Ciubotaru, Dragoș Nichita and Teodora Petruse. “In the near future they will write their theses using real ALICE data. I wrote the application to make sure that they have the programming skills required to do their data analyses and that they are familiar with ROOT – explains Mihai. – The experience I gained in the ALICE Offline group helped me a lot in the creation of EduKit. The architecture I used is the same as the one of the ALICE Online Event Display. In order to test it, I wrote the first lesson – the Decay Law. Then, with my help, each of the students developed their own project. Teodora chose to work on Alpha Decay, Dan chose Beta Decay and Dragoș worked on Nuclear Fission.”

The lessons

Radioactive decay, also known as nuclear decay or radioactivity, is the process by which the nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting radiation, including alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays and conversion electrons. A material which spontaneously emits such radiation is considered radioactive. In this lesson, the students can visualise the inherent random behaviour of the radioactive decay. 

The dots represent nuclei that have not decayed, while the red stars are decayed nuclei. The number of non-decayed nuclei vs. time is represented in the small plot. The plot and the displayed nuclei are animated according to the simulation.

Nuclear fission is a very important nuclear reaction, broadly used to generate energy. It occurs when a heavy nucleus is oscillating, causing it to deform in such way that it cannot recover and the nucleus breaks in two fission fragments. With the graphical dynamic simulation of the fission events in the Nuclear EduKit Environment, the students can see the fission happening live and in a simplified manner, and understand the basic physics and the outcome parameters.

The plots are built up as data becomes available from the simulations revealing: the distribution of the atomic mass of the fission fragments; the distribution of the energy released by the reaction in each simulation; and the number of neutrons per fission reaction.

Alpha decay is the radioactive decay in which a nucleus releases an alpha particle, made of two protons and two neutrons bound in a helium nucleus, and decays to a lighter nucleus with a mass number reduced by four and an atomic number reduced by two.

The alpha decay energy spectrum

The alpha decay simulated with EduKit builds up four plots: the kinetic energy of the alpha particle, the kinetic energy of the daughter nucleus, the momentum of the alpha particle and the momentum of the daughter nucleus.

Beta decay is the type of radioactive decay, in which either an electron and antineutrino (β− decay), or a positron and a neutrino (β+ decay) are emitted from a nucleus. The last possible scenario is an electron capture. In this lesson the students can visualise the decay of a nucleus with the emission of an electron and an antineutrino.

In the simulation window of the β− decay the user should input an isotope which undergoes β− decay, entering the atomic mass number (A) and the atomic number (Z) for the desired element.

You can download EduKit from the official webpage of the application.