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Explain Isotopes to me?

  1. Sep 28, 2007 #1
    Can someone help explain Isotopes to me?

    First off, how am I supposed to know how many differnt isotopes a element can have?

    Why would an element become an isotope?

    Last edited: Sep 28, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2007 #2
    seems like you need to go back and understand what atoms are and what's in them.

    your 3 questions are dealing with 2 different things (at least)

    lets deal with isotopes first

    "First off, how am I supposed to know how many differnt isotopes a element can have?

    Why would an element become an isotope?

    besides the proton and the electron what else is in an atom?
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2007
  4. Sep 28, 2007 #3
    ne of two or more atoms that have the same atomic number (the same number of protons) but a different number of neutrons. Carbon 12, the most common form of carbon, has six protons and six neutrons, whereas carbon 14 has six protons and eight neutrons. Isotopes of a given element typically behave alike chemically. With the exception of hydrogen, elements found on Earth generally have the same number of protons and neutrons; heavier and lighter isotopes (with more or fewer neutrons) are often unstable and undergo radioactive decay. (provided by dictionary.com) do some research before running for help.
  5. Sep 28, 2007 #4
    thanks but ive already looked up that def.

    My question is why would an atom change its number of neutrons.


    How am I supposed to know how many isoopes an atom has.

    PS I dont really appreciate rudeness, all Im doing is trying to understand more.
  6. Sep 28, 2007 #5
    I think we're just trying to help you but don't know what your background understanding is

    Atoms just want stability - or the least amount of energy it needs to expend based on its situation - that is the reason for the radioactive decay and why it would change its neutrons - become another isotope of the same element - and sometimes lose protons too to become another different element.

    I don't know how you would know how many isotopes an atom has without data or going to look it up. If you were given a problem about average atomic mass, you should be given some isotope data (its atomic mass and % abundance)

    Do you have a specific problem you were given to solve?
  7. Sep 29, 2007 #6
    The amount of isotopes avalible to an atom is not easily quantifiable, isotopes generally exist due to the initial formation of the element having an isotope, and not that the isotopes are formed by a chemical (electron based) reaction adding more neturons.

    This is largely in the realm of nuclear physics, proton absorbtion, followed by positron and neutrino ejection has a net overall neutron gain for an atom, for exmaple.
  8. Sep 30, 2007 #7
    Thanks so much. I get it now...it took me long enough lol
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