What Is the Structure of an Atom of Uranium?

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A stable atom of uranium is made up of 92 electrons and 92 protons in the nucleus. Learn how radioactive versions of uranium will have a different number of protons with information from a math and science teacher in this free video on science.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Steve Jones, and I'm going to tell you about the structure of an atom of uranium. Well, I'm going to tell you not just about one atom of uranium, but about three different types of atom of uranium -- the three isotopes. Each of these is an isotope, and an isotope has the same chemical form, but a different mass. And you can see, in each case, I have the nucleus of the atom. Here, at this point, is the nucleus. I have the surrounding electrons, and you'll notice for a neutral atom -- a neutral atom -- there will always be 92 electrons. Now, within the nucleus, there is always, always 92 protons -- here, 92 protons -- in each case. So the atom of uranium is described by saying, "There are 92 protons in the nucleus." The difference between these atoms is that they have different numbers of neutrons. In this,141; in this, 143; and in this, 146. This one's called uranium 233, and obviously, if you look at these numbers, they add up to 233 -- that is, 233 particles -- protons and neutrons -- in the nucleus. Here, total of 235. So when they talk about U235, it is the number of particles in the nucleus. It's distinctive from that. And again, uranium 238, where there are 238 particles within the nucleus. Now, the interesting thing is these actually, although they're the same chemically, they behave different physically. Uranium 23...233 and 235 are similar in physical characteristics. They produce fission. You get fission with both of these. This is where the atom will actually split in half if hit by a neutron. When you get a neutron hitting this nucleus, this just goes through a reaction, which turns it into plutonium, eventually. So this, you get plutonium when you add a neutron. And here, when you add a neutron, you get fission. It splits in half. So briefly, that is the structure of the atom of uranium.


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