Foundational Knowledge: Isotopes

Derby Roan, Managing Editor

Isotopes are different forms of an element that have the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons. These atoms will have different atomic masses, but the same chemical properties.
All of the elements on the periodic table have varying numbers of isotopes–hydrogen has three, while xenon has 39!
Some isotopes are stable, meaning they can maintain their form, but others are unstable. Unstable isotopes radioactive, meaning they decay into other isotopes or even other elements. Most stable isotopes are found in nature, while unstable isotopes are usually man-made. In fact, every man-made isotope is unstable, which is to be expected considering that they’re created by nuclear reactions.
Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope used in radiation to stop cancer’s growth. Some radioactive isotopes are even used to x-ray and measure large metal and plastic sheets.

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