Elements are defined by differences in the number of protons in the nucleus (atomic number, Z). The isotopes of an element therefore have the same atomic number, but are distinguished on the basis of different atomic masses (mass number, A = number of protons + number of neutrons). These differences in atomic mass are caused by the gain or loss of neutrons. Isotopes of an element display slight differences in their chemical and physical behaviour. However, these differences are so slight that for most elements chemical reactions do not lead to a measurable Separation of the isotopes. Such Separation is only significant in the lighter elements where a difference of one or two neutrons represents a significant fraction of the total atomic mass. It is this property of mass fractionation that is employed in the application of stable isotopes to hydrological studies.
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- Isotope Chemistry
Dr. Keith Nicholson
- Springer Berlin Heidelberg
- Chapter 4