Radioisotopes to the Rescue

The modern era is the age of technological innovation. Everyday new inventions are created through science and helped better the lives of billions of people. One such innovation of the 20th century was the usage of radioactive isotopes to aid in various fields of science. A radioisotope occurs when a nucleus strives to achieve a balance between the protons and neutrons. All atoms seek a balance and when there is an excess of protons than neutrons in a nucleus that makes it unstable.

To achieve this balance the nucleus tends to give up neutrons and in that process energy is released in the form of radiation. However, this great technological innovation brought along some risks, but the usefulness of such a technology far outweighs the few risks associated with it. While there are some risks involved, radiation from isotopes can be used in various ways in the fields of research, industry and medicine much to the benefit of society. Radioactive isotopes have been a key instrument in the research, industry and medical fields of the new digital age.

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Radioactive isotopes are often used in research. Radioisotopes are the energy source of the future. A new method of energy is being used to power the future of space exploration through the use of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators where the long-lasting half-life of the Plutonium-238 isotope is used to power modern day space vehicles. This method is a ground-breaking technology for the future as further advancements will allow mankind to delve deeper into space and allow humans to reach the stars.

Radioisotopes are also used in the industry in a variety of ways. Radioisotopes are used to ensure high quality materials such as detecting the quality of metal structures. Radioisotopes are used to in a method called industrial radiography where a sealed source of Iridium-192 or Cobalt-60 and a beam radiates on to the section to be checked and through scan is performed. This technology is highly useful as it saves a lot of funds and time from industries, thus helping the economy as whole by improving the efficiency of work.

Radioactive isotopes are most well known to be used in the medical fields as millions of people are treated every year through radiation. Statistically, every year one in every three patients in the U. S. A. hospitals are treated through radioisotopes. Cancer is often treated through radiation therapy where a cancerous growth is usually struck with a beam of Cobalt-60 and the cancer dies. This proves the possible treatment of the incurable disease that has plagued mankind for millennia and such a treatment has revolutionized the medical field.

Radioisotopes have been revolutionary in the past century or so in the advancement of mankind into the digital age; it has helped us better our lives almost exponentially. There are, however, the side effects to the radioactive isotope technology. Radioactive isotopes can be very harmful if not used right. In the research field, radioisotopes are constantly being studied, such as the use of particle accelerators where atomic particles are collided to study the effects. After the use of particle accelerators, the facilities are usually decommissioned and must be demolished.

However, there are obvious radiations present in the particle accelerators and this may cause harm to the environment or people due to exposure. Also, harmful radioisotopes exist in the industrial world that may cause damage to the environment or people due to radiation exposure. In 1986, the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine with a faulty design lead to a meltdown and millions of people were affected by the long-lasting Cesium-137 with a half-life of 30 years that emitted radiation over the decades. This shows industrial effects of radioisotopes when used in a wrong way.

In the medical field, radioisotopes are frequently used to treat patients, but an over dosage may result in bodily harm. Thyroid cancer is treated through the injection of a radioisotope of Iodine-131. However, overexposure may lead to the iodine to be poisonous and my cause severe side effects to the patients. This shows, how over exposure during medical treatment may cause some harm to the patient. Even though, radioisotopes are generally used for reasonable purposes, careless handling, disposal and usage of the substance results in dire consequences.

One may say radioisotopes are harmful, but the evidence of the uses of radioisotopes far exceeds any harms. From the research conducted, the risks of radioisotopes only make an impact when used wrongfully or in severe exposures. However, the daily impact of radioisotopes prevails over the risks as they are used in almost every aspect of life. Radioisotopes in the grand scale can only help mankind, helping humanity to further its existence by another step.

In conclusion, the uses of radioisotopes in research, industry and medicine are one of the most beneficial innovations of the 20th century. This revolution has allowed humanity’s transition from the Atomic Age to the Digital Age in a new fashion. Radioisotopes are used in everyday life; from revolutionary research to the life saving uses of radioisotopes; mankind is in need of them perhaps as much as petroleum in this new age. Radioisotopes are the fuel of the future and the light of new discoveries and adventures that await mankind.

Bibliography

http://www.radiochemistry.org/nuclearmedicine/diagnostics/01_diagnostics.shtml

http://www.ndt-ed.org/EducationResources/HighSchool/Radiography/radioactivity.htm