Radioactive Isotopes and Their uses

Radioactive Isotopes and Their uses

There are some isotopes the nucleus of which spontaneously synthesize themselves and emit alpha(ɑ), beta(β), and gamma(γ) rays. They are called radioactive isotopes. So far, scientists have gathered information more than 3000 isotopes. Some of them are natural and some are laboratory made. 

Controlled use of radioactive isotopes has made many an impossibility possible. Presently, such isotopes are used in medical science, agriculture, preservation of food and seeds, electricity generation, etc.

Uses of Isotopes in Medical Science

Medical science employs radioactive isotopes for various purposes.


We can take pictures of the affected area using radioactive isotopes. Technetium-99 (99Tc) is injected inside the body in this system. When it gathers a particular isotopes at a certain place inside the body, the isotopes emits gamma rays. The gamma ray identification camera from outside can take the photo of that spot of the body. The lifetime of this isotope is 6 hours. Since it loses its radioactivity within a short time, it is safe.

Treating Diseases

Radioactive isotope was first used to cure thyroid cancer. The patient is made to drink a solution of 131I. This isotope reaches the thyroid and emits beta rays which destroys the affected cells. Iridium isotope is used to treat brain cancer. 60Co isotope is used to diagnose and treat tumours. The gamma rays emitted from this isotope destroys the cancer affected cell and tissue. 32P isotope is used for treatment of leukemia.

Uses of Isotopes in Agriculture sector

Nutrition of Crops

Sufficient fertilizers are required for nutrition of crops. The quantity of fertilizer is an important issue. Excess fertilizer costs more than necessary. It is also harmful for the environment. Again, less than necessary fertilizer won't be of any help. Radioactive isotopes help to determine the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus present in the soil. Plants absorb radioactive Nitrogen and Phosphorus via its roots which is then transferred to different parts of its body. Geiger Muller counters help to identify the presence of these isotopes and helps to determine the presence of the two elements in soil. Then we can determine the remedy too.

Getting Rid of Harmful Insects

Harmful insects are always a threat to a good crop. They not only lessen the production of crops but also they introduce various harmful microbes to the plants. We use insecticides to rid of these insects. These insecticides are harmful for our body and environment as well. These insecticides also manage to kill other insects that were of help for our crops. Insecticides enriched with radioactive isotopes have helped us to determine the standard of use of insecticides for a particular crop.

Development of Crops

Radioactive isotopes also play a significant role in developing hybrid varieties by bringing genetics changes in the original crop.

Generation of Electricity

A huge amount of heat is found in fission reactions or by breaking some atoms into smaller atoms. Driving this heat energy through generators, we can produce electricity. We call such power plants, nuclear power plants.

The going to establish a nuclear power plant in Rooppur of Pabna. It is hoped that the power plant will be able to produce 2400 MW electricity.

Impact of Radioactive Isotope

It is true that radioactive isotopes are there for a good number of benefits. But at the same time, they have the potential to harm us too. The alpha, beta and gamma rays emitted from such isotopes can bring about genetic changes to cells which may cause cancer. The atom bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan during the WWII killed lacs of people. The Chernobyl accidents of 1986 in Russia has killed numerous people and has done harm to the adjacent environment.

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