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Name: Nathan
Status: student
Age: 14
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999 


Question:
I'm going to start working on a project in the local math & science center (advanced math and science). I am thinking about doing an experiment to determine where certain elements and/or compounds travel to in a plant. I want to do this by adding radioactive isotopes of: Nitrogen, phosphate or phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, or sulfur. Will I be able to see different concentrations of the radioactive macronutrients when I look for them? Or will they be too bright to tell the difference? If so, should I use micronutrients? Would it be reasonable to think of giving the plants radioactive CO2 through the air? Are there any of these elements/compounds easier to obtain than others? Generally how expensive are these isotopes? If I decide to find where Phosphorus is going, should I use phosphates or phosphorus? How dangerous are these isotopes?(I will be getting help from my Biology teacher later) Are there any plants you would suggest (maybe ones that have big leaves and stems, or easy to grow plants)?


Replies:
To do experiments with radioactive masterials, generally you will need a laboratory with appropriate radiation monitors, and trained health physics technicians. You probably don't have these at home.

That said, the experiments you are describing can be performed. Most of them would require some fairly expensive measuring equipment as well. Radiolabeled compounds are all quite expensive. Basically, unless you can work in a university laboratory that already uses these radioisotopes, you won't be able to do these experiments.

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.



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