The use of Isotopes

Isotopes are used in medicine, and in other areas of technology. Isotopes are atoms of an element that have a different number of neutrons. In these atoms, the smallest particle of matter, neutrons and protons reside in the nucleus of an atom. Stability in atoms and thus in elements mean sameness, the same number. Since the neutrons are not electrically nor negatively charged the only way they can become stable and is when their number matches the number of the protons and electrons. Instability, not stability, is what happens in radioactivity.

Within atoms which make up all matter, an unequal number of positive and negative ions means constant friction and instability. This creates an energy that is released. It is by harnessing this randomly supplied energy – and mimicking of this process – that much experimentation the form of bombardment of energy is made; hopefully for positive effects. This comes about in various ways. All elements greater than the number 83 are radioisotopes and are therefore unstable and are subject to activity.

This energy force is labeled radioactivity. Chemists have harnessed this energy and have applied it to various positive purposes in medicine, in agriculture, in geology, in paleontology and in crime detection, and in food safety, to name a few uses. Ongoing scientific technology frequently discovers newer uses.

*Medicine: Radioisotopes are used in diagnosis of diseases, treating diseases, in imaging of the body to readily and accurately pinpoint where the fracture is, where the abnormality or where the problematic areas are. Most procedural use in hospitals is for diagnostic purposes. It is now rare now to find an individual that has not had a CT Scan, (Computed x0-ray Tomography) or a Pet Scan (Positron Emission Tomography).technetium-99 is the often the Isotope used.

The first use was in the 1950s and was used to detect thyroid malfunctioning. Iodine-131 was the trace element that gauged under or over thyroid functioning. The use in diagnostics has since mushroomed. Ten percent of the use of Isotopes in medicine is for treatment in Leukemia, various cancers and other RNT (Radionuclide Therapy) use. Since rapidly dividing cancer cells are particularly sensitive to radiation damage, this method of searching out and destroying cancers are used in cancer eradication.

Agriculture: Food safety and pest control and a more productive world wide food supply to feed hungry world are some of the ways Isotopes benefit agriculture. Food is irradiated with radioactive Isotopes – Cobalt 60 – to kill harmful bacteria that may be residing in the meat products and in grain and vegetable crops. Ongoing are experimentation and studies on learning newer and better methods of harnessing this runaway quality of atomic energy

Smoke detectors: A smoke detector contains a positive electrode, a negative electrode and a radiation source -Americium-241- and a current detector.  As smoke is drawn into the device, the reaction signals an alarm. Not all smoke detectors use this radioisotope.

Archeological dating: When determining how old rocks and fossils are, Carbon 14 dating makes it all possible. This comes about because Walter F. Libby at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s discovered the process. In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for this important discovery. This concept is based on the rate the carbon decays.