decay constant

TheInfoList

Image:Plot-exponential-decay.svg, upright=1.5, A quantity undergoing exponential decay. Larger decay constants make the quantity vanish much more rapidly. This plot shows decay for decay constant (λ) of 25, 5, 1, 1/5, and 1/25 for x from 0 to 5. A quantity is subject to exponential decay if it decreases at a rate Proportionality (mathematics), proportional to its current value. Symbolically, this process can be expressed by the following differential equation, where ''N'' is the quantity and ''λ'' (lambda) is a positive rate called the exponential decay constant: :$\frac = -\lambda N.$ The solution to this equation (see
derivation Derivation may refer to: * Derivation (differential algebra), a unary function satisfying the Leibniz product law * Derivation (linguistics) * Formal proof or derivation, a sequence of sentences each of which is an axiom or follows from the precedi ...
below) is: :$N\left(t\right) = N_0 e^,$ where ''N''(''t'') is the quantity at time ''t'', ''N''0 = ''N''(0) is the initial quantity, that is, the quantity at time ''t'' = 0, and the constant ''λ'' is called the decay constant, disintegration constant, rate constant, or transformation constant.

# Measuring rates of decay

If the decaying quantity, ''N''(''t''), is the number of discrete elements in a certain set (mathematics), set, it is possible to compute the average length of time that an element remains in the set. This is called the mean lifetime (or simply the lifetime), where the exponential time constant, $\tau$, relates to the decay rate, λ, in the following way: :$\tau = \frac.$ The mean lifetime can be looked at as a "scaling time", because the exponential decay equation can be written in terms of the mean lifetime, $\tau$, instead of the decay constant, λ: :$N\left(t\right) = N_0 e^,$ and that $\tau$ is the time at which the population of the assembly is reduced to e (mathematical constant), 1/''e'' ≈ 0.367879441 times its initial value. For example, if the initial population of the assembly, ''N''(0), is 1000, then the population at time $\tau$, $N\left(\tau\right)$, is 368. A very similar equation will be seen below, which arises when the base of the exponential is chosen to be 2, rather than ''e''. In that case the scaling time is the "half-life".

## Half-life

A more intuitive characteristic of exponential decay for many people is the time required for the decaying quantity to fall to one half of its initial value. (If ''N''(''t'') is discrete, then this is the median life-time rather than the mean life-time.) This time is called the ''half-life'', and often denoted by the symbol ''t''1/2. The half-life can be written in terms of the decay constant, or the mean lifetime, as: :$t_ = \frac = \tau \ln \left(2\right).$ When this expression is inserted for $\tau$ in the exponential equation above, and Natural logarithm of 2, ln 2 is absorbed into the base, this equation becomes: :$N\left(t\right) = N_0 2^.$ Thus, the amount of material left is 2−1 = 1/2 raised to the (whole or fractional) number of half-lives that have passed. Thus, after 3 half-lives there will be 1/23 = 1/8 of the original material left. Therefore, the mean lifetime $\tau$ is equal to the half-life divided by the natural log of 2, or: : $\tau = \frac \approx 1.44 \cdot t_.$ For example, polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days, and a mean lifetime of 200 days.

# Solution of the differential equation

The equation that describes exponential decay is :$\frac = -\lambda N$ or, by rearranging (applying the technique called separation of variables), :$\frac = -\lambda dt.$ Integrating, we have :$\ln N = -\lambda t + C \,$ where C is the constant of integration, and hence :$N\left(t\right) = e^C e^ = N_0 e^ \,$ where the final substitution, ''N''0 = ''e''''C'', is obtained by evaluating the equation at ''t'' = 0, as ''N''0 is defined as being the quantity at ''t'' = 0. This is the form of the equation that is most commonly used to describe exponential decay. Any one of decay constant, mean lifetime, or half-life is sufficient to characterise the decay. The notation λ for the decay constant is a remnant of the usual notation for an eigenvalue. In this case, λ is the eigenvalue of the additive inverse, negative of the differential operator with ''N''(''t'') as the corresponding eigenfunction. The units of the decay constant are s−1.

## Derivation of the mean lifetime

Given an assembly of elements, the number of which decreases ultimately to zero, the mean lifetime, $\tau$, (also called simply the lifetime) is the expected value of the amount of time before an object is removed from the assembly. Specifically, if the ''individual lifetime'' of an element of the assembly is the time elapsed between some reference time and the removal of that element from the assembly, the mean lifetime is the arithmetic mean of the individual lifetimes. Starting from the population formula :$N = N_0 e^, \,$ first let ''c'' be the normalizing factor to convert to a probability density function: :$1 = \int_0^\infty c \cdot N_0 e^\, dt = c \cdot \frac$ or, on rearranging, :$c = \frac.$ Exponential decay is a scalar multiplication, scalar multiple of the exponential distribution (i.e. the individual lifetime of each object is exponentially distributed), which has a Exponential distribution#Properties, well-known expected value. We can compute it here using integration by parts. :$\tau = \langle t \rangle = \int_0^\infty t \cdot c \cdot N_0 e^\, dt = \int_0^\infty \lambda t e^\, dt = \frac.$

## Decay by two or more processes

A quantity may decay via two or more different processes simultaneously. In general, these processes (often called "decay modes", "decay channels", "decay routes" etc.) have different probabilities of occurring, and thus occur at different rates with different half-lives, in parallel. The total decay rate of the quantity ''N'' is given by the ''sum'' of the decay routes; thus, in the case of two processes: :$-\frac = N\lambda _1 + N\lambda _2 = \left(\lambda _1 + \lambda _2\right)N.$ The solution to this equation is given in the previous section, where the sum of $\lambda _1 + \lambda _2\,$ is treated as a new total decay constant $\lambda _c$. :$N\left(t\right) = N_0 e^ = N_0 e^.$ Partial mean life associated with individual processes is by definition the multiplicative inverse of corresponding partial decay constant: $\tau = 1/\lambda$. A combined $\tau_c$ can be given in terms of $\lambda$s: :$\frac = \lambda_c = \lambda_1 + \lambda_2 = \frac + \frac$ :$\tau_c = \frac.$ Since half-lives differ from mean life $\tau$ by a constant factor, the same equation holds in terms of the two corresponding half-lives: :$T_ = \frac$ where $T _$ is the combined or total half-life for the process, $t_1$ and $t_2$ are so-named partial half-lives of corresponding processes. Terms "partial half-life" and "partial mean life" denote quantities derived from a decay constant as if the given decay mode were the only decay mode for the quantity. The term "partial half-life" is misleading, because it cannot be measured as a time interval for which a certain quantity is one half, halved. In terms of separate decay constants, the total half-life $T _$ can be shown to be :$T_ = \frac = \frac.$ For a decay by three simultaneous exponential processes the total half-life can be computed as above: :$T_ = \frac = \frac = \frac.$

## Decay series / coupled decay

In nuclear science and pharmacokinetics, the agent of interest might be situated in a decay chain, where the accumulation is governed by exponential decay of a source agent, while the agent of interest itself decays by means of an exponential process. These systems are solved using the Bateman equation. In the pharmacology setting, some ingested substances might be absorbed into the body by a process reasonably modeled as exponential decay, or might be deliberately modified-release dosage, formulated to have such a release profile.

# Applications and examples

Exponential decay occurs in a wide variety of situations. Most of these fall into the domain of the natural sciences. Many decay processes that are often treated as exponential, are really only exponential so long as the sample is large and the law of large numbers holds. For small samples, a more general analysis is necessary, accounting for a Poisson process.

## Social sciences

* Finance: a retirement fund will decay exponentially being subject to discrete payout amounts, usually monthly, and an input subject to a continuous interest rate. A differential equation dA/dt = input – output can be written and solved to find the time to reach any amount A, remaining in the fund. * In simple glottochronology, the (debatable) assumption of a constant decay rate in languages allows one to estimate the age of single languages. (To compute the time of split between ''two'' languages requires additional assumptions, independent of exponential decay).

## Computer science

* The core Routing, routing protocol on the Internet, BGP, has to maintain a routing table in order to remember the paths a Packet (information technology), packet can be deviated to. When one of these paths repeatedly changes its state from ''available'' to ''not available'' (and ''vice versa''), the BGP router (computing), router controlling that path has to repeatedly add and remove the path record from its routing table (''flaps'' the path), thus spending local resources such as CPU and Random-access memory, RAM and, even more, broadcasting useless information to peer routers. To prevent this undesired behavior, an algorithm named ''route flapping damping'' assigns each route a weight that gets bigger each time the route changes its state and decays exponentially with time. When the weight reaches a certain limit, no more flapping is done, thus suppressing the route.

* Exponential formula * Exponential growth * Radioactive decay for the mathematics of chains of exponential processes with differing constants

# References

* * * {{ citation , first1 = George F. , last1 = Simmons , author-link = George F. Simmons , year = 1972 , title = Differential Equations with Applications and Historical Notes , publisher = McGraw-Hill , location = New York , lccn = 75173716