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Application Paper #2 Collin Sanderson

Generation and Medical Uses of Isotopes of Iodine


Radiation refers to any kind of energy or particle that is released from a material. This most
commonly occurs from atoms that are unstable. The center nuclei of atoms contain protons and neutrons,
small particles that play a large role in the nature and behavior of an element. Electrons are particles
that surround the nucleus like the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Protons are positively charged,
electrons are negatively charged, and neutrons are uncharged. Like magnets, oppositely-charged particles
attract and likes repel. This means that the alike-charged protons in the nucleus are very close together
and repel each other. Neutrons act like a buffer between protons to help mitigate the repulsion between
protons. A careful balance of protons and neutrons must be present for the nucleus to be stable. A greater
or fewer number of either protons or neutrons frequently results in an unstable nucleus that will release
some of these particles to achieve stability. This is what we call radiation. These emitted particles (or
sometimes energy) are high in energy and fly at high speeds. The identity of the original compound may
change as particles are released.
Visualizing the interior of the human body is extremely difficult. High energy particles like those
released from radioactive compounds can sometimes be detected by computers and machines and can
provide an image of the source of the radiation. If these compounds are ingested or injected into the body,
we can highlight areas of interest to be easily visible and distinguishable from surrounding tissue. For
example, diseases and conditions of the thyroid are common. The thyroid is the only organ in the body
that utilizes the element iodine which is used in the production of the thyroid hormones. Iodine, even in
radioactive forms (called isotopes), is sent straight to the thyroid. By injective iodine isotopes into the
bloodstream we can obtain excellent imaging of the thyroid and even treat some conditions of the thyroid.
Radioactive compounds are produced by bombarding certain elements with particles to create the
unstable radioactive element used for imaging. Radioactive isotopes are named for their number of
combined protons and neutrons. Iodine-131 is used for imaging of the thyroid and elimination of thyroid
tissue in diseases like thyroid cancer and Graves disease. Iodine-131 is easy to produce by bombarding
the element tellurium with neutrons. The tellurium integrates 5-10 of these high energy neutrons, then
undergoes what is called beta-decay, which is where a neutron breaks into an electron and a proton. The
electron is ejected, while the proton remains, causing the nucleus to become the next highest element on
the periodic table, which is Iodine-131 in this case. The iodine is then heated which helps to drive the
stable but more volatile iodine-127 into gas form, separating it from the solid iodine-131.
Radioactive elements like iodine-131 degrade spontaneously by ejecting energy or particles. The
speed of this degradation depends on how unstable the element is. Each radioactive isotope is described
as having a certain half-life, which is how long it takes for roughly 50% of a sample to degrade by
radioactive decay. When iodine-131 is injected into the bloodstream, it is absorbed by the thyroid which
then attempts to use it to synthesize thyroid hormones. The iodine attempts to form a more stable nucleus
by decaying into Xenon-131, a very stable element. Xenon-131 has one more proton than iodine-131 and
one less neutron. The iodine undergoes beta-decay, breaking a single neutron apart into an electron and a
proton. The electron (beta particle) is ejected while the proton becomes part of the nucleus and turns the
element into Xenon-131. The ejected electron hits the nearby thyroid tissue and causes serious damage to
the DNA in these cells, frequently causing cell death. This is desirable in thyroid cancer and Graves
disease. The resulting Xenon-131 then releases some gamma-radiation (high energy waves) which can be
detected by computers and machines to create an image of the thyroid. In the lab, we observed the release
of beta and gamma radiation from a sample of radioactive Cesium using a detector. The Cesium we
observed had a very long half-life and didnt release much radiation, while iodine-131 with a half-life of 8
days releases much larger amounts of radiation and disappears completely in about a month.
Application Paper #2 Collin Sanderson

References
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Radioisotope Brief, Iodine-131. Retrieved from
Emergency Preparedness and Response:
https://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes/pdf/iodine.pdf

Metrovi, T. (2016). Radioiodine Production. Retrieved from News Medical - Life Sciences:
https://www.news-medical.net/health/Radioiodine-Production.aspx

University of Illinois. (2000). Characteristics of Nuclear Reactions. Retrieved from University of Illinois
Archives:
https://archives.library.illinois.edu/erec/University%20Archives/1505050/Rogers/Text4/Tx46/tx
46.html