Berkelium and Neptunium Isotopes

Assessment task

This task is worth 10% of your HSC assessment mark . There are 22 marks available

Nuclear Chemistry is a relatively new area of chemistry, which is widely used in medicine and industry.

Select two recently discovered isotopes and explain how they were discovered.

Also show how isotopes are used in medicine and industry and analyse the benefits and the problems associated with their use.

Marking criteria:

  1. Select two recently discovered isotopes Isotope one: Description of the isotope (2 marks) Description of discovery process (2 marks) Isotope two : Description of the isotope (2 marks) Description of discovery process (2 marks)
  • Provide a range of uses of isotopes in medicine and industry (at least two uses in each area including a description of how they are used.) (8 marks)
  • Analyse the benefits and problems associated with the use of isotopes in medicine and industry using examples where possible (6 marks)

Please attach this sheet to your assessment task

The production of the latest isotopes was from the trans-uranium elements, a term used to describe the elements that were discovered shortly after the uranium and comprised of elements with an atomic number starting from 93 and beyond. The discovery of the latest isotopes can be dated back to 1961 and 1940, when the production of the trans-uranium elements started. The common characteristics of the trans-uranium elements are that, all of them are radioactive and emit energy when they decay to form more stable atoms. Among the newly produced isotopes are the isotopes discovered for Berkelium and Neptunium elements, established as trans-uranium elements amid 1940 and 1961 by the researchers at the UCB College in California. The production of trans-uranium compounds was through the passage of materials through the particle accelerator known as atomic smasher and bombarding them on a target made of a hard material such as tin, copper and gold. Production of the elements was as a result of the particles striking the atoms of the target materials.

    Berkelium-247             It is an isotope of the Berkelium element; a trans-uranium element discovered at Berkeley Campus through a bombardment of helium atom on a target made of americium atoms by an accelerator. The element does not occur naturally, but is found commonly in the artificial form. Berkelium-247 is a more stable Berkelium isotope, with a half-life of approximately 1,380 years. Such a half-life makes the isotope primordial, implying that the isotope which was naturally occurring by now has decayed. It explains the reason for the artificial production of the isotope.  It indicates that it will take 1,380 years for the Berkelium-247 sample to decay to a half of its initial weight. After the decay of the isotope, americium-243 is produced using the alpha decay process.  It is the reason the isotope gets the reference as the alpha emitter.  Among the 20 isotopes of Berkelium, Berkelium-247 is the only isotope with most actinide properties. It is capable of producing alpha particles which are convenient for research compared to beta particles associated with berkelium-249 isotope. The distinction between the two isotopes is that while berkelium-249 produce soft beta radiations, berkelium-247 isotope produces alpha particles, which are appropriate for detection purposes…

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