Fact or Fiction: Isotopes - CNSC Online

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

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Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Family Ties

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Isotopes are atoms of the same element with different number of neutrons in the nucleus.

Isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons (P) and electrons (E), but different number of neutrons (N). Isotopes of an element may be found in nature or created artificially.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Weigh-off

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Protons, electrons, and neutrons all weigh the same, to within about 1%.

While the proton and the neutron are nearly the same weight, the electron is about 2000 times lighter.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Naturally Artificial

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Radiation from man-made isotopes is different from radiation emitted by naturally occurring isotopes.

The same isotope will emit identical radiation, whether it occurs naturally or is man-made. Many isotopes, however, never occur in nature and are only artificially created.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Wanna Alpha-bet?

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When an atom’s nucleus emits an alpha particle during decay, that atom becomes a different isotope of the same element.

It is now a different element. Isotopes of the same element always have the same number of protons. Since an alpha particle is made up of two protons and two neutrons, the atom – by losing two protons – has become a different element.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

The Beta-test

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Beta radiation particles are electrons, so the atom emitting them stays the same element.

Electrons emitted as beta radiation also come from the nucleus. In a way, a neutron in the nucleus splits into a proton and an electron. The electron is spit out but the proton stays behind, which raises the proton count in the nucleus by one and this changes what element the atom is.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Periodic Instability

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Every element on the periodic table has at least one stable, non-radioactive isotope.

All of the heaviest elements, those with an atomic number greater than 83, are radioactive. Uranium and radium are two examples.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

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A radioactive isotope’s "half-life" is the time required for half the atoms in the sample to undergo radioactive decay.

After one half-life, only half of the atoms in the sample will still be the same isotope. After two half-lives, one fourth will be left, after three half-lives one eighth the original will remain, and so forth.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Heavy, man

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Given enough time, uranium-238 turns into lead.

Many isotopes undergo a number of transformations rather than decaying in a single step. This series is referred to as a decay chain or decay series and ends in a stable nuclide. In the case of uranium, it becomes lead-206.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

Quick-change Artist?

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For the radioactive isotope uranium-238 to become non-radioactive, it must first decay into a different element 4 times.

Uranium decays through a series of 14 transformations called a decay chain. This process takes several billion years to complete. At the end of this decay chain it becomes lead 206 – a stable, non-radioactive element.

Fact or Fiction: Isotopes

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