Buckyballs and uranium

If an atom of uranium were encased in a buckyball of carbon would that contain it enough to keep it from decaying?

I don’t think it would make any difference at all; radioactive decay just happens.

No. The buckyball, or any molecule, has its structure because the electrons in the outer shells interact.

Uranium decay happens in the nucleas, far away from the electron shells. As far as I know, there is no influence of the electron shells on nuclear decay.

Unless you mean, for example, that the uranium atoms in a nuclear fuel rod were encased in buckyballs, then maybe the added distance from other radioactive uranium atoms would slow down the chain reaction. Can you clarify what you’re thinking?

Isn’t there some precedent for [sup]3[/sup]He fusion being catalyzed when the element is encased in the lattice structure of aluminum ? I remeber this coming up during the cold-fusion debate, but haven’t the time to look it up just now. If true, that would imply that buckyball like structures might also be able to put some stress on uranium nuclei.

Generally true. I’ve heard of one case where it mattered. IIRC, the decay was through electron emission from the nucleus, but for a neutral atom, the energy after decay was slightly greater than the energy before decay, so the decay wouldn’t happen. If the atom was ionized, the emitted electron could go into a bound state, and decay became energetically favorable. At the time I heard about this, some group was looking for (or had just found) this decay.

Basically, I’m thinking of a buckyball around the uranium atom to contain its’ emissions and possibly stop the decay.

Sock, it wouldn’t work. Why? Because radioactive decay happens (generally) at the nucleus (hence the terms nuclear energy and nuclear weapons). The nucleus is where ~90% of all of the atom’s mass is, but it only occupies ~1% of the total volume. The rest of the atom’s volume is basically empty space: Electrons are too small to matter, even if they did have an actual size. Trying to affect the nucleus with an entire atom is like trying to flatten a ball bearing with a piece of cotton candy.

It simply isn’t going to work, no matter how small you manage to get the buckminsterfullerine that surrounds your uranium isotope.

Nuts, I thought I might have had something possibly useful. Another thought occurs to me, could the protons and neutrons of an atom be arranged is such a way as to create a hollow nucleus if the structure they formed had the particles far enough apart to keep the binding forces weak enough not to collapse the protons and neutrons into a standard nucleus?

Probably not. The nuclear strong force, which is what binds atomic nucleii together, has two properties that would seem to make this impossible. First, it is very strong – by far, the strongest of the four fundamental forces, and second, it is extremely short range, operating at less than the width of the nucleus itself. Either the structure would collapse under the influence of the strong force, or it would fly apart if the particles were too spaced too far.