Can Environmental Factors Affect Half-Life in Beta-Decay? An Analysis
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Early in the history of the field of nuclear science, experiments were performed to ascertain whether the half-lives of the radioactive substances being studied – isotopes then called the “radium emanation” [222Rn], “radium A” [218Po], “radium B” [214Pb], and “radium C” [214Bi] - were dependent upon any external factors. At that time, the external factors deemed most likely to affect half-life were temperature and pressure. After several experiments, designed to pick up any change in half-life in the course of changing temperature or pressure, had failed to find any significant changes, it was concluded that half-life does not depend on the physical properties of external environment. And that was the state of the field for a long time - for almost 100 years, in fact. Fairly recently, however, half-life measurements were recorded, and published, that seemed to show a change in half-life at the few percent level for certain radioactive nuclides which were exposed to extremes of temperature - thus challenging the long-held belief in the unchangeability of half-lives. In addition to half-life changes caused by temperature change, other experiments seemed to find half-life changes caused by other external influences, including the chemical environment of the decaying radioactive nuclide, and even the distance between Earth and the Sun at the time of the half-life measurement. In this study we present evidence that the initial beliefs in the immutability of radioactive half-life (with the exception of a few nuclides decaying by electron capture whose orbital electrons are involved in both the decay and also in the chemical bonding of those nuclides) is indeed correct; we have done this by performing precise half-life measurements on the β− emitter 198Au, the EC emitter 97Ru, and on the β− emitter 198Au when sited in gold(III) oxide, Au2O3, (an insulator for practical purposes). We have performed various experiments designed to detect any half-life change at the level of a few parts in 10^4 due to change in temperature, physical environment, or the Earth-Sun distance. In these experiments, we have found no significant half-life change due to any of these external factors. These results represent the most accurate demonstrations of the immutability of radioactive half-life change ever made.
Goodwin, John 1953- (2012). Can Environmental Factors Affect Half-Life in Beta-Decay? An Analysis. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from