According to the National Science Foundation, isotopes are important both to help scientists understand the makeup of atoms in a theoretical sense as well as due to the unique characteristics isotopes of certain elements may have. Isotopes can be unstable and provide opportunities for fission, or they may decay into entirely new isotopes or elements. The specific isotopes present in molecules can serve as atomic-level fingerprints, as well.Continue Reading
The discovery of isotopes led to a new understanding of atomic structure, explaining why different samples of a given element might behave in different ways. For example, there are three stable isotopes of oxygen, and water molecules containing the lighter isotopes evaporate slightly faster than the heavier versions. Heavier oxygen molecules tend to condense out of water vapor more quickly, as well, so the water that falls from rain clouds tends to become atomically lighter as the storm progresses.
Isotopes can also be unstable, such as the radioactive elements that power nuclear fission. When these atoms decay, the particles and energy they emit can be harnessed in weapons as uncontrolled reactions or nuclear reactors as controlled reactions. Isotopes are also important in forensics because the ratio of isotopes in a given sample of material can identify its origin. If two samples of lead contain the same mix of isotopes, for instance, it is likely that the samples came from the same source.Learn more about Atoms & Molecules
Hydrogen and ununoctium are two examples of the more than 100 elements that have either been discovered in nature or synthesized by scientists. All of the elements are arranged in the periodic table, which organizes the elements based on atomic mass, number of valence electrons, and physical and chemical characteristics.Full Answer >
Ionic bonds form between atoms that transfer electrons to one another. These bonds require at least one electron donor and one electron acceptor. During ionic bonding, a complete transfer of valence electrons takes place between atoms.Full Answer >
Most basic information on the atoms of different elements is available on a standard periodic table of elements. These tables are organized based on the atomic properties of each atom.Full Answer >
Atomic absorption spectra are created when light passes through gaseous elements and atoms. The gas absorbs the light waves from the light source and emits a characteristic absorption spectra.Full Answer >