The University of Southampton

PHYS3009 Applied Nuclear Physics

Module Overview

The aim of this course is to communicate knowledge of physical techniques which exploit nuclear particles, and to develop an understanding of the underlying physics. Important themes are nuclear processes and the interaction of nuclear radiation with the surroundings.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The course aims to describe applications of nuclear physics in the world around us starting with the interactions of radiation and matter and describing subjects such as nuclear power generation, nuclear techniques of material analysis and medical applications of nuclear physics.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • interactions of ionising radiation with matter
  • the key techniques for detection of radiation
  • the physical processes involved in nuclear power generation and appreciate the safety aspects of current nuclear power systems
  • the processes which explain the abundances of the elements around us. the principles of radiocarbon and geological dating, and be able to perform the related calculations for age determination
  • the nuclear techniques of materials analysis and their application within industry. the medical applications of nuclear phenomena
  • the Mossbauer effect and its applications in modern nuclear spectroscopy


The interaction of radiation with matter - Reviews the many ways in which radiation can interact with matter, this introduction provides the basis for the detection techniques and the practical applications of radiation discussed later. The detection of radioactivity - Surveys the various detection techniques which are used in the practical application of radiation. Detailed descriptions are given as appropriate during the course. Radioactive dating - Discusses the various methods of dating materials using the naturally generated radioactive isotopes found within them. Trace element identification - The detection and identification of small quantities of contaminants is of vital importance in many areas - materials analysis, forensic science, security (e.g. airline baggage scanning and industrial quality control. The possibility of transmutation of nuclear waste products into harmless nuclides is also discussed. Medical applications of nuclear phenomena - Radiation is used in medicine for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The underlying physics and the relative merits of the basic techniques are reviewed. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging will be introduced. The Mossbauer Effect - An extremely high resolution spectroscopic technique which makes possible a very precise measurement of the energy of gamma-rays, and therefore provides a very sensitive energy-probe of the nuclear region of atoms. Nucleosynthesis - Discusses the cosmological, stellar and other processes which create the elements around us. Present and Future Nuclear energy - Nuclear fission is an established energy source, while research into the harnessing of fusion power continues. This course discusses the physics behind nuclear power, its safety issues, and future prospects.

Learning and Teaching

Follow-up work18
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Wider reading or practice66
Completion of assessment task2
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

R.L.Murray. Nuclear Energy. 

J.Lilley. Nuclear Physics (Principles and Applications). 

K.S.Krane. Introductory Nuclear Physics. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

PHYS2003Quantum Physics
PHYS2006Classical Mechanics
PHYS2024Quantum Physics of Matter
PHYS2023Wave Physics
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