Q:

What are some uses for radioactive isotopes?

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Quick Answer

Radioactive isotopes are used in many ways, including medical purposes, tracing, X-rays and equipment sterilization. If not disposed of properly, radioactive isotopes may cause damage to the environment.

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Full Answer

Radioactive isotopes are used in analysis of soil density and to understand the properties of the soil. They are also used to determine element concentrations in process streams of minerals. Radioactive elements can cause X-rays of non-radioactive mineral concentrations to become fluorescent, allowing for easier measurement of the minerals. Gamma radiation may be used to view the inner contents of an object by using radioactive isotopes in protective capsules to create an X-ray image. This technique can be used for remote viewing of the inner contents of an object, such as a metal pipe. This can help to assess the integrity of the object and determine if repairs are needed.

Radioactive isotopes are useful for the sterilization of medical equipment. They kill bacteria effectively and do not compromise the integrity of packaging, while sterilizing manufactured medical supplies on a large scale with heat may damage them. Radioactive isotopes are also used to decontaminate certain foods and increase their shelf life. The environmental impact of human activity can be traced with radiation through water sources, sewage and soil dispersal. They can also be used to find small leaks in power station machinery without damaging the equipment.

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