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How are Isotopes of the Same Element Similar and Different

Isotopes are variants of a specific chemical element. For example, uranium-238, uranium-235 and uranium-234 are three isotopes of the element uranium. The listed numbers are the mass number and each isotope has a different mass number. This number is calculated by adding the amount of protons and neutrons that the isotope contains in the nucleus and it is one of the differences between isotopes from the same element. Let’s find out some of the most common similarities and differences between these isotopes.

Similarities between isotopes of the same element
Each isotope of the same element is identical in most ways including having the same number of protons and electrons.

Differences between isotopes of the same element
Each isotope of the same element contains a different number of neutrons and this is the main difference between isotopes of the same element. The isotopes will also have a slightly different atomic mass because of the different number of neutrons. Radioactive (unstable) isotopes will also have different half lives (rate of decay). They may also a different type of decay and daughter isotope (daughter product), which is the product left over after radioactive decay.

Did you know?
Many of the elements have at least one stable isotope and a number of unstable (radioactive) isotopes. However, certain elements have no stable isotopes at all. This includes the elements technetium, promethium and every element after lead.

Many radioactive isotopes have very important uses in fields such as geology (radiometric dating), medicine (nuclear medicine), astronomy (radiometric dating), fire prevention (smoke detectors), food preservation (irradiation) and pest control (irradiation).

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