- List of elements by stability of isotopes
:"This is a list of the
chemical elements and their isotopes, listed in terms of stability."Atomic nuclei consist of protons and neutrons, which attract each other through the strong nuclear force, while protons repel each other via the electric forcedue to their positive charge. These two forces compete, leading to some combinations of neutrons and protons being more stable than others. Neutrons stabilize the nucleus, because they attract each other and protons equally by the strong nuclear force, which helps offsetting the electrical repulsion between protons. As a result, as the number of protons increases, an increasing ratio of neutrons to protons is needed to form a stable nucleus. However, if too many or too few neutrons are present with regard to the optimum ratio, the nucleus becomes unstable and subject to certain types of nuclear decay. Unstable isotopes decay through various radioactive decay pathways, most commonly alpha decay, beta decay, or spontaneous fission.
Of the first 82 elements in the
periodic table, 80 have isotopes considered to be stable. Technetium, promethium( atomic numbers 43 and 61, respectivelyref label|Note1|a|a) and all the elements with an atomic number over 82 have only isotopes that are known to decompose through radioactive decay. They are not expected to have any stable, undiscovered ones. However, it is possible that some isotopes that are presently considered stable will be revealed to decay with extremely long half-times (as was the case in 2003 with bismuth-209which had been previously considered to be stable). [cite news| url=http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/7/4/16| title=Bismuth breaks half-life record for alpha decay| date=2003-04-23 | publisher= Institute of PhysicsPublishing| first=Belle| last= Dumé] [cite journal | author = Pierre de Marcillac, Noël Coron, Gérard Dambier, Jacques Leblanc, Jean-Pierre Moalic | year = 2003 | month = April | title = Experimental detection of α-particles from the radioactive decay of natural bismuth | journal = Nature | volume = 422 | pages = 876–878 | doi = 10.1038/nature01541 ] This list depicts what is agreed upon by the consensus of the scientific community as of 2008.
For each of the 80 stable elements the number of the stable isotopes is given. Of these elements, only one (
tin) has 10 stable isotopes, one ( xenon) has nine, five have seven, three have six, nine have five, eight have four, 11 have three, 15 have two, and 27 have a single stable isotope. Additionally, 28 of these 80 elements also have unstable isotopes with a half-life longer than the age of the Solar System(~>109 years).ref label|Note2|b|b Because of their long half-times, these isotopes are still found on Earth in various abundances, and together with the stable isotopes they are called primordial isotopes. All the primordial isotopes are given in order of their decreasing abundance on Earth.ref label|Note3|c|c
The other 37 discovered elements have isotopes which are all known to be radioactive. The elements in this list are ordered according to the lifetime of their most stable isotope.citeweb|url=http://www.nndc.bnl.gov/chart/|title=Interactive Chart of Nuclides|publisher=Brookhaven National Laboratory|author=Sonzogni, Alejandro|location=National Nuclear Data Center|accessdate=2008-06-06] Of these, four (
bismuth, thorium, uraniumand plutonium) are primordial because they have long enough half-times to still be found on Earth,ref label|Note4|d|d while all the others are produced either by radioactive decayor are synthesized in laboratories. Only 13 of these 37 elements have isotopes with a half-time of at least 100 years. Every known isotope of remaining 24 elements is highly radioactive, and not used outside of academic research.ref label|Note5|e|e Some of the heavier elements in the periodic table may be revealed to have yet-undiscovered isotopes with longer lifetimes than those listed here.ref label|Note6|f|f
Elements with stable isotopes
Elements without stable isotopes
right|450px|thumb|Periodic table colored according to the half-lives of their most stable isotope .">legend|brown|Extremely radioactive elements. Very little is known about these elements due to their extreme instability and radioactivitiy.
Table of nuclides
Island of stability
*note label|Note1|a|a See stability of technetium isotopes for a detailed discussion as to why technetium and promethium have no stable isotopes.
*note label|Note2|b|bIsotopes that have a half-life of more than about 108 may still be found on Earth, but only those with half-lives above 109 are found in appreciable quantities. The present list neglects a few isotopes that are found in the 108-109 range because they have not been measured in apreciable quantities on Earth.
*note label|Note3|c|cThere are unstable isotopes with extremely long half-times that are also found on Earth, and some of them are even more aboundant than all the stable isotope (such as 114Cd). Also, a more abundant isotope on Earth does not necessarly imply that the isotope is the lowest in energy and therefore the most stable. It just implies that their formation was favored by the
stellar nucleosynthesisprecessed that produces the matter constitutes now the Solar Systemand the Earth(see also Formation and evolution of the Solar System).
bismuthand thoriumhave only one primordial isotope, uranium has three isotopes that are found in nature (SimpleNuclide|uranium|238,SimpleNuclide|uranium|235 and SimpleNuclide|uranium|234). Plutoniumis a special case because its half-time is barely enough to allow it to still be found in trace quantities on Earth.
Americiumwith a half life of over 7000 years is the least stable element that is used in commercial applications (fire alarms).
*note label|Note6|f|fFor elements with a higher atomic number than californium (with Z>98) there might exist undiscovered isotopes that are more stable than the known ones.
day, h= hour, min= minute, s= second.
*note label|Note8|h|hThese values are not purely derived from experimental data, but at least partly from systematic trends.
*note label|Note9|i|iNone of the elements with an atomic number above 111 have yet been confirmed by
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