Atomic Structure: Isotopes

Atomic Structure: Isotopes

Understanding Isotopes

Basics of Isotopes

  • Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons.

Features of Isotopes

  • While isotopes of an element have the same atomic number, they have different mass numbers because they have different numbers of neutrons.
  • Despite having different mass numbers, isotopes of an element typically exhibit similar physical and chemical characteristics because these properties rely on the proton number (atomic number) which is the same across all isotopes of an element.

Radioactive Isotopes

  • Some isotopes are radioactive, meaning they are unstable and decay over time by emitting radiation. This is because they have too many neutrons compared to protons and hence try to achieve stability through radioactive decay.

Uses of Isotopes

  • Isotopes have various applications. They are used in medicine for both diagnostic (like PET scans) and treatment purposes (like radiotherapy), in archaeology for dating artifacts (through carbon dating), and in industry for tracing leaks or wear and tear.

Key Learning Points

  • Isotopes are variations of the same element and play an important role in various sectors from medicine to archaeology.
  • The behaviour of isotopes, in particular the radioactive isotopes, follows the principles of nuclear physics and provides evidence of the stability associated with nuclear structures.
  • Always remember that while isotopes have the same atomic number, indicating they are the same element, they have different mass numbers due to differing number of neutrons.