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Some of these are found in nature; the rest are produced artificially as the direct products of nuclear reactions or indirectly as the radioactive descendants of these products.
Each “parent” radioactive isotope eventually decays into one or at most a few stable isotope “daughters” specific to that parent. Some radioactive isotopes are present as terrestrial radiation.
Other significant applications include the use of radioactive isotopes as compact sources of electrical power—e.g., plutonium-238 in spacecraft.
In such cases, the heat produced in the decay of the radioactive isotope is converted into electricity by means of thermoelectric junction circuits or related devices.
Radon, generated by the radioactive decay of radium, is present in air.
Organic materials typically contain small amounts of radioactive carbon and potassium.
More than 1,000 radioactive isotopes of the various elements are known.
Approximately 50 of these are found in nature; the rest are produced artificially as the direct products of nuclear reactions or indirectly as the radioactive descendants of these products.cobalt-60 is extensively employed as a radiation source to arrest the development of cancer.
They also may be employed in place of large X-ray machines to examine manufactured metal parts for structural defects.
Many rocks and organisms contain radioactive isotopes, such as U-235 and C-14.
These radioactive isotopes are unstable, decaying over time at a predictable rate.
Every chemical element has one or more radioactive isotopes.
For example, hydrogen, the lightest element, has three isotopes, which have mass numbers 1, 2, and 3.