Science ObjectDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.
Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of three Science Objects in the Atomic Structure SciPack. It investigates the forces at work within the nuclei of atoms and the energy contained in within atomic nuclei. Scientists continue to investigate atoms and have discovered even smaller constituents of which neutrons and protons are made. The nuclear forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together, at nuclear distances, are almost always stronger than the electric forces that would make it fly apart. Nuclear reactions convert a fraction of the mass of interacting particles into energy, and they can release much greater amounts of energy than interactions between atoms. Fission is the splitting of a large nucleus into smaller pieces. Fusion is the joining of two nuclei at extremely high temperature and pressure, and is the process responsible for the energy of the sun and other stars. Energy is released whenever the nuclei of very heavy atoms, such as uranium or plutonium, split into middleweight ones, or when very light nuclei, such as those of hydrogen and helium, combine into heavier ones.