Question: What are radioactive isotopes?
Asked by anon-306342 to Sarah on 15 Dec 2021.
answered on 15 Dec 2021:
Different isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei but differing numbers of neutrons.
Radioisotopes are radioactive isotopes of an element. They are atoms that contain an unstable combination of neutrons and protons, or excess energy in their nucleus.
Atoms with unstable nuclei regain their stability by shedding excess particles and energy in the form of radiation. This process is called radioactive decay.
Marianne commented on 15 Dec 2021:
An isotope is a variant of a particular chemical element that has a different number of neutrons in its nucleus. An element is defined by the number of protons it has. Taking Hydrogen as the simplest example – Hydrogen in its most commonly known form has one proton and no neutrons. However there are isotopes of Hydrogen called Deuterium (1 proton, 1 neutron) and Tritium (1 proton, 2 neutrons).
There are two types of isotope – stable and unstable. The unstable ones are also called radioactive isotopes. The nuclei of radioactive isotopes are unstable, usually because they contain more neutrons than protons. These nuclei will naturally emit energy or particles to reach a more stable state. There are 3 different types of radiation – alpha, beta and gamma. Each radioactive isotope is unique in the way that it decays so by observing/measuring the radiation from a material, we can understand what radioactive isotopes are in that material. We use these techniques a lot in the nuclear industry.
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