What is an Isotope | What County

What is an Isotope

Isotopes are atoms of an element that have an equal number of protons and electrons, but differ in the number of neutrons. The difference in the number of neutrons leads to a different atomic mass. You can divide isotopes into long-lived (stable) and short-lived (unstable) isotopes.


Accordingly, isotopes have the same atomic number . That’s why you always use the term ‘isotope’ in reference to a certain chemical element.

For example, there are three natural isotopes of carbon. They all have six protons and electrons, but a different number of neutrons (6, 7 and 8) in the atomic nucleus.

What is an Isotope
What is an Isotope

Isotopes are nuclides (types of atoms) with the same atomic number, but different mass number. The name (Greek. ισο [iso– – same, τόπος [topos] – place) comes from the fact that isotopes of one and the same element in the periodic table are in the same place. However, in the nuclide map they appear separately. So, isotopes contain in their atomic nuclei an equal number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons.

The term isotope was coined by Frederick Soddy, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921 for his work and knowledge in the field of isotopes and radioactive elements.

As a rule, each naturally occurring element has one or a few stable isotopes, while its remaining isotopes are radioactive (that is, unstable) and sooner or later decay. However, there are also elements in which all isotopes are unstable.

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