Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Radioactive Decay Products

Name: Mary
Status: educator
Location: IL
Country: USA
Date: Spring 2012


Question:
What happens to a radioactive isotope when it decays? Does the radioactive material disappear? How or why?

Replies:
Mary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotope

“Isotopes are variants of a particular chemical element. While all isotopes of a given element share the same number of protons, each isotope differs from the others in its number of neutrons."

So if an isotope decays it simply becomes a different chemical element or the same element of a different atomic weight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_decay

Per the above Wikipedia article Uranium Atomic Wt: 238 loses an alpha particle to become Thorium 234 Thorium 234 loses a beta particle to become Protactinium 234 which loses another beta particle to become Uranium 234….and on and on and on.

In the above example of Uranium 238, the radiation part is the alpha, beta and gamma particles that the Uranium, Thorium, Proactinium…lose. These particles just fly off into space, possibly running into a radiation detector.

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart


Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory