As we discussed in the last activity, energy is released when isotopes decay. This energy can either be in the form of electromagnetic radiation or the kinetic energy of the nuclear fragments. The important question for us is, “How can this energy be converted into a useful form like electricity?” The most obvious thing to do is to allow either of these forms of energy to be absorbed by a substance in order to increase its internal energy and thus, increase its temperature. As the substance warms up above its surroundings, a temperature difference is created, and allows for any one of a number of heat engines to be placed between the two and convert some of the heat into useful energy.
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