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Uses of Radioactive Decay

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Jude Sanon

on 22 November 2013

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Transcript of Uses of Radioactive Decay

Uses of Radioactive Decay

What is Radioactive Decay?
Radioactive Decay is the process in which the nucleus of an atom emits energy and/or particles from its nucleus to become stable.
Nuclear Food Processes in Canada
Nuclear Imaging
Canadian Connection: The University of Ottawa Heart Institute
Applications of Radioactive Decay
Enriched Uranium
Radioactive Decay Series of Uranium-238
Elements that go through radioactive decay are radioisotopes.
The picture to the top right displays enriched uranium.
Since U-235 is more unstable than U-238, power plants add a slight concentration of U-235 to help make a chain reaction of decays.
The bottom picture displays the decay series of U-238. In this process, element keeps decaying until it reaches a stable state as Lead.
Radioisotopes occur naturally in the world, which is why the atomic mass of elements on the periodic table is the sum of the protons and weighted average of neutrons.
Radioisotopes go through decay because their nuclei can get so large that the electromagnetic force starts to overcome of the strong force holding the nuclei together.
In the previous slide, enriched uranium was mentioned. Natural uranium is enriched with U-235 because the presence fissile materials in the core of the plant is needed to make a chain reaction of fission that creates energy the plant will use to produce electricity.
Radioisotopes decay in different ways which can be taken advantage of for real life use and application that help humans to advance technologically.
-Nuclear decays and radioisotopes are used for Nuclear Imaging .
-Radiation has allowed us to be able to diagnose patients through non invasive procedures.
-Radioisotopes are used as an alternative to pressurized steam in hospitals to sterilize instruments and supplies.
-This has been beneficial because the spreading pathogens in hospitals and clinics are greatly reduced.
Nuclear decay and radiation has allowed us to also create treatments/therapy for terminal and chronic illnesses such as cancer.
Above: A SPECT scan of the Brain.
Below:Needles used in sterilization through the use of radioisotopes.
Above: A Linear Accelerator used for external radiation therapy for cancer.
Different Types of Decays
Alpha Decay
Beta Decay
Gamma Decay
-A form of radioactive decay in which a helium nucleus (alpha particle)
is emitted from the parent nuclei
-Caused by the incident of some nucleons moving outside the range of the strong force and being released
-Results in the Transmutation of the element
-Form of radioactive decay where an electron and antineutrino are released from parent nuclei(beta particle)
- Occurs when the nucleus has too many neutrons so it transforms into a proton and an electron and emits the electron so that the proton is left.
-Causes Transmutation of the Element
-Form of decay in which parent nuclei emits energy as gamma rays to come back to a more grounded state
-Allows to nucleons to rearrange themselves
-Usually happens after previously going through alpha or beta decay

-Transmutation is the changing of the parent nuclei into a new element.
-Transmutation happens as a result of Alpha and Beta Decay because in alpha decay, the nucleus loses 2 protons as part of the alpha particle.
-In Beta decay, the nucleus gains one more proton so the atomic number changes along with element.
Due to the fact radioactive decays always follow the law of conservation of mass-energy, the by-products of decay can be put to good use in society.
During decay, energy is always released either as gamma radiation or kinetic energy of the daughter nuclei and emitted particles.
Being exposed to radiation as strong as gamma can be dangerous because it damages the DNA molecules in our cells.
If used properly, the radiation emitted can be used in many areas such as medicine and the food industry to make our lives easier.
Characteristics of Different Types of Decay
-Depending on the characteristics of the different types of decays, we optimize each for different uses.
Alpha Decay
Beta Decay
Gamma Decay
Radioactive Tracers and Drugs
In healthcare, the decay of radioisotopes allows us to accurately picture and analyze the human anatomy without the use of traumatic, painful procedures like open heart surgery.
Common radioisotopes include:
Radioisotopes work in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs in order to make basis of Nuclear imaging.
Depending on the test, a specific drug is used accumulate on the target tissue/organ and the radioactive tracer emits radiation analyzed by a camera-computer system.
Nuclear Imaging
One main type of Nuclear Imaging is
Positron Emission Tomography.
Above: A PET machine.
To the Left:
A PET scan of the Heart muscle done in the University of Ottawa Heart Insitute.
PET scans take advantage of beta plus decay/positron emission in order to create images that show physiology (organ function) and disease.
Radioactive tracers/sugars are used to accumulate in the target tissue.
As cells metabolize, the sugar emits radiation captured by rotating camera in the PET machine to form an image.
Explanation:Positron Emission
Explanation Notes: The Decay of Technetium-99
The decay of Technetium 99 is used to get a certain amount of emitted radiation needed to make an image.
This is why nuclear imaging tests can last for several hours up to 2 days, with breaks to go home.
Even though the half life is 6 hours, patients are at little risk because tracers used in medicine are easily flushed out by normal bodily functions.
Above: General Chemical Equation for Positron emission.
Positron emission is a type of beta decay in which a proton turns into a neutron by emitting a positron and a neutrino.
This is Beta Plus Decay.
This can be used to create medical imaging because when a position collides with an electron of a cell in your body, they convert/cancel out into pure gamma energy.
This is because, a positron is the antimatter of an electron.
The collision creates 2 parallel gamma rays opposite directions that can be seen by a gamma camera to see the tissue.
Above: A SPECT camera
Above: Images taken of the Heart at rest (odd rows) and
in exercise (even rows) by a SPECT Camera
SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Tomography.
A SPECT machine is made of a gamma camera, which is basically a camera that detects gamma radiation to make an image.
It can rotate around the patient to make 2-D and 3-D images.
SPECT images can tell us about the amount of blood flow to that targeted tissue and how well that organ is functioning.
Procedures involving the SPECT camera use a mix of radioactive tracers and drugs make accurate diagnostic images.
What is Radiotherapy?
Even though the alpha particle has the lowest penetrating ability, it can still be used in cancer treatment to protect healthy cells.
Beta Decay's high speed and moderate penetrating ability can be used advantage to produce images with the use of Gamma cameras in Nuclear imaging.
The extremely high penetrating power and speed of gamma rays can be used in Healthcare for uses involving the killing malignant cells.
External Radiotherapy
A type of treatment in in which ionizing radiation is used to used disease causing cells.
Two different types of Radiotherapy
External Radiotherapy
Internal Radiotherapy
Internal Radiotherapy
Most commonly used for cancer treatment because the ionizing energy of the radiation can used to damage the DNA of cancer cells.
The common types of radiation used for this is gamma radiation.
External radiation involves firing beams of ionizing radiation at diseased cells from outside the tissue.
A common use of external radiotherapy is a linear accelerator.
This machine fires gamma rays at a tumor to kill cells.
A radioactive source used for this is cobalt 60.
Involves injecting small pieces of radioactive material or liquid to kill cancerous cells.
Above: An X-ray of the radioactive seeds in a tumour in the prostate.
A main example of this is Brachytherapy.
This short range ionizing radiation kills the cancerous cells over time.
In this, radioactive seeds are implanted and decay inside the tumor.
Explanation Notes
In external radiotherapy, what specifically happens is that the Linear Particle Accelerator fires a ray of energized subatomic particles.
With this comes many techniques:
Conformal Beam Techniques
Intraoperative radiation therapy
Conformal beam techniques: many rays are fired simultaneously to focus only on malignant cells.
Intraoperative radiation therapy: the use of the beam during surgery to treat tumors.
Targeted Alpha-Radionuclide Therapy
An alternative to Brachytherapy that takes advantage of the ionizing ability of alpha particles.
The treatment involves using alpha decay to damage clusters of cancer cells at a time.
Can be used to treat viral infections.
Food Preservation
One of the major uses of radioactive decay in food preservation is irradiation. Irradiation is used to rid food of harmful bacteria and/or pests and, despite what many believe, it does not leave any traces of radiation on the food
The symbol seen on irradiated food products
Bismuth-213 is injected into to tissue to help control the size and spread of tumors.
Nuclear isotopes can be used to determine the origins of a specific body of water. Isotope Hydrology can also be used to keep track of groundwater, and ensure that it is managed properly.
How isotope hydrology works
In the agriculture business, radiation is used for many purposes. It can be used to mutate plants to increase pest and weather resistance, and fertilizer with an isotope within can aid in ensuring the proper amount of fertilizer is used.
Internal Radiotherapy Further Explained:
The big advantage behind internal radiotherapy is that there is less risk of damaging adjacent normal cells.
Crops being grown in a farm

How it Works
Sterilization in Healthcare
Cobalt-60 is stored in stainless steel capsules

The food is run through gamma radiation in order to remove harmful bacteria and pests

Common sources include Cobalt-60 and Cesium-137

Cobalt-60 "pencils" are stored in stainless steel tubes, and are placed in water when not needed

Food moves along a conveyer belt and gamma radiation passes through the stainless steel tubes and treats the food

Radiation is also used as an alternative to hot pressurized steam to sterilize instruments.
In hospital and clinic environments, it allows the staff to make sure there are as little microorganisms living to infect patients.
In healthcare, ionizing radiation is used because of its strong penetrating ability.
The main element decayed for these processes is cobalt 60 in order to produce gamma radiation.
Explanation Notes
Instruments in healthcare workplaces are sterilized by first cleaning them, sealing them in a clear container, and exposing them to a radiation field.
Compared to conventional autoclave sterilization, radiation is cheaper, more effective and lengthens the shelf life of instruments and supplies.
This is because some bacteria can still survive after being steamed.
Radiation kills bacteria the same way as cancer cells.
Cobalt-60 Explanation
One unifying element that connects both Medicine and Food conservation is Cobalt-60.
Used in radiotherapy and sterilization.
Also in food irradiation.
Cobalt 60
A cross-section of an irradiation facility
Cobalt 60 is decayed to produce gamma radiation useful in both fields.
Many people falsely believe that the food becomes radioactive from this procedure.

No radioactive materials come in contact with the food.

There is much more risk to eating non-irradiated food, due to harmful bacteria which irradiation removes.
Advantages of Irradiation
Cobalt 60
Beta Decay
Nickel 60
Gamma Decay
Longer Shelf Life
Cobalt 60 Decay Explanation
Irradiated food has a much longer shelf life than non-irradiated food

The gamma radiation kills any living cells
Irradiation, due to the fact that it kills living cells, extends the ripening time

The nutritional value stays essentially unchanged
Extended Ripening time
Explanation Notes: How PET Works:
FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), a radioactive sugar similar to glucose is injected.
Positrons are released to collide and produce gamma rays.
The rays are detected by the PET machine to make a 3-D image.
Since it is a sugar, it shows the metabolic activity of the tissue.
No Harmful Bacteria
Irradiation kills all bacteria which may otherwise cause sickness

One example of this is E. coli, which is eliminated by this process
Isotope Hydrology and Agriculture
Isotope Hydrology
What is it?
Left: Application in Lung Cancer cases.
Isotope hydrology is a type of hydrology technique of determining the origin and age of water.

It is used to aid in groundwater management.
How it Works
By examining the water isotopes, age and origin can be determined.

This information can be used to determine how much groundwater is left, or if there is a leak in a dam

This technique can help find new sources of groundwater and ensure that we do not overuse the sources we know
Free Neutron
Cobalt 59
It is important that fertilizers are used in proper quantities, otherwise it could harm the environment and cost extra money.
Fertilizers which contain Nitrogen-15 or Phosphorous-32 allow companies to determine how much fertilizer is being wasted.
A research institute with the goal of curing cardiovascular disease.
Genetic Modification
One major wing is the Cardiac imaging section.
In this section, PET and SPECT are used for different imaging procedures for the Heart.
Explanation Notes: Nuclear Imaging in the Heart Institute
Two Nuclear imaging tests that are done are LVGs and MPIs.
LVG-Left Ventricular Function Study
Another use of radiation in agriculture is to modify a species of plant.

Some modifications include increasing weather resistance, increasing disease resistance, and accelerating growth
MPI-Myocardial Perfusion Imaging Tests
Genetically Modified Crops in Canada
In Canada, there are multiple genetically engineered crops grown:
Sugar Beet
A nuclear imaging scan to see how well the left ventricle is functioning.
A large amount of Canadian food is irradiated. The CFIA ensures that all irradiation facilities meet safety and legality standards.
This is a test that compares the blood flow of the heart muscle at rest and during stress.
Both procedures use a SPECT camera.
Isotope Hydrology
In Canada, methods of using isotope hydrology are being developed, and are not currently in use.
Many crops in Canada are genetically modified or engineered, such as corn, canola, and soy. The CFIA has allowed the growth of 12 genetically engineered crop species.
Explanation Notes:
Above: Images taken of the Heart when resting(odd rows) and during exercise (even rows).
Right: Images taken of the left ventricle.
For Nuclear Imaging in the Heart Institute:
Technetium 99 =tracer
Myoview =Drug
Myoview is a drug that accumulates in the heart muscle.
The main PET test done at the Heart Institute is a PET Viability Test.
Uses Metabolic sugars to see how much tissue has died from heart attack or disease.
On a PET images, the dead cells don't metabolize any sugar so they are not visible.
Above: A PET machine at the Heart Institute.
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