Hot Atom Chemistry
Typically, when a nuclear reaction takes place, large amounts of energy are liberated, much more energy than is usually required to break chemical bonds. When an atom is released from a molecule by such a process, its excess energy may be manifested by large amounts of translational energy, i.e., it is moving very fast; so fast, that this "hot atom" may break other bonds and induce further chemistry when it collides with other atoms or molecules. Indeed, the amount of energy available may be so great compared to ordinary "thermal" atoms and molecules, that reactions that could not occur under thermal conditions will happen, leading to production of unusual species that cannot otherwise be generated, permitting studies of the chemistry of unique species. Common species can be produced with unusual amounts of energy, so that reaction channels not otherwise accessible can be studied. Also, hard-to-make radical or ionic species can be produced via hot-atom methods and then moderated to "thermal" velocities so that reactions of such species with ordinary amounts of energy can be considered.
So-called "nucleogenic hot atom chemistry" was a field closely related to radiochemistry and radiation chemistry, and meshed well with the stated goals of research supported by the Atomic Energy Commission.
Last Modified: June 28, 2012