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After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

  • Explain what a radioisotope is and what it is used for.
  • State why artificially produced radioisotopes are used by industry instead of naturally occurring radioisotopes.
  • Identify the three principle ways to produce radioisotopes.

As you know, there are a number of sources of radiation, ranging from naturally occurring radioisotopes to X-ray machines, and other forms of particle accelerators. In this section we are going to take a look at the different sources of gamma radiation commonly used today.


Remember from our previous discussion, that radioisotopes are elements that are atomically unstable and radioactive. Radioisotopes stabilize by releasing energy and matter. Natural radioisotopes, which have relatively low radioactive energy, have been largely replaced by artificially produced radioisotopes. Artificially produced radioisotopes are widely utilized as sources of radiation for radiography, gauging, and as tracers for a multitude of measurements that are not easily made by other methods.

How are radioisotopes produced?

Present day production of radioisotopes includes three principle categories, which are (1) neutron activation (bombardment), (2) fission product separation, and (3) charged particle bombardment. Nuclear bombardment constitutes the major method for obtaining industrially important radioisotope materials. Radioisotopes may exist in any form of matter, with solid materials comprising the largest group.

To learn more see below!


  1. Artificially produced radioisotopes are primarily used by industry because they can be produced so as to have much more radioactive energy that natural types.
  2. The three ways to produce radioisotopes are neutron activation, fission product separation, and charged particle bombardment.
  3. Elements that are atomically unstable and radioactive are called radioisotopes.