Radioisotopes

Key topics

• Nature of radioactivity

• Detection and measurement of radioactivity

• Biochemical uses of isotopes

Atoms that have the same atomic number, and hence are the same element, but have different masses are known as isotopes. Radioisotopes, or more correctly, radionuclides spontaneously and continuously emit characteristic types of radiation. They are particularly useful in analytical biochemistry, the unique nature of the radiation providing the basis for many specific and sensitive laboratory methods (Table 5.1).

Table 5.1 Physical data of some frequently used isotopes

Element

Symbol

Half-life

Beta emission

Gamma emission

Calcium

45Ca

165 d

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