Isotopes are atoms of an element that have the same amount of protons, but have less or more neutrons. They are a variation of an element which has the same atomic number but different mass number.
Radioactive isotopes are isotopes that have an unstable nucleus, making the isotope emit radiation. This radiation can be emitted by Alpha particles, Beta particles or by Gamma rays. Radioactive isotopes can be of great use, as we can use and track the energy they radiate. In medicine, radioactive tracers can be used for both diagnosis and treatment, and environmentally, radioactive tracers are used to measure engine wear, analyze the geological formation around oil wells and other similar things.The impact radioactive isotopes have had on medicine has been revolutionary.
There are over 10 million procedures that use radioactive isotopes, the can be used for diagnosis and treatment, this facilitate the doctors live and give a proper treatment to patients. Some of the most famous treatments with radioactive isotopes in medicine are, the gamma ray irradiation of tumors, that uses isotope 60Co, and the cancer detection and treatment that uses isotope 32p. Radioactive isotopes are also used for PET (positron emission tomography), in where the patient ingest a positron emitting isotope which travel through the body to certain parts, so when the person enters in the machine the gamma radiation of the positron is detected and it can take a more detailed image of the specific parts for doctors to analyse easier and better.
Radioactive isotopes are also found in your daily day. Isotope Americium-241, is an emitter used in tiny amounts for smoke detectors. Am-241 radiates an emission that ionize the air between two electrode plates in of the chamber. A battery supplies a power source that causes movement of the ions, making them create a small electric current. So when smoke enters the chamber, the movement of the ions is interrupted by slowing down, reducing the conductivity of the air. This causes a drop in the current, that triggers an alarm. In the food industry the radioactive isotope is used to kill any microorganism that may grow in the food.
Food for not to be poisonous or harmful when eaten, food has to be treated. Food goes through a process of irradiation, usually with the radioactive isotope of Cobalt-60. In this way, food is not only cleaned up and prevented from illnesses but also now food stays fresh for longer time.Another use for radioactive isotopes is nuclear energy. When an atom splits in 2 smaller ones because it gained a neutron, then the radiation produced releases a lot of heat that is used to make nuclear power. For this is usually used the element uranium because it takes a longer time to split in 2 atoms and therefore it produces more radiation and energy.With the process of nuclear power, lots of CO2 gases are released contaminating the atmosphere.
Also nuclear power makes a lot of radioactive waste, this is usually buried underground. But radioactive waste are highly toxic and dangerous. The wastes stay emitting radiation for hundreds of years. The radiation of this wastes can affect people and even communities that live close by increasing the possibilities of harmful diseases like cancer.
Also the radioactive wastes also have an impact on the environment. The soil and plants above were it was buried became toxic and animals are unable to live in their ecosystems, endangering some species or even making them mutate. So in conclusion radioactive isotopes are a chemical tool that can give us exceptional abilities.
It has immensely helped medicine to advance making various procedures easier and more effective, has helped the food industry make a much healthier, safier and longer products for people, and has help us to produce energy through nuclear power, but with this it has also been harmful to us and contaminating to the environment.