Uses include:


Carbon 14 Dating
great scientific benefit to historians

smoke alarms

Radioactive materials used to measure thickness.

Irradiation of food

Label biochemicals

Nuclear powered submarines

Heart pacemakers

Overview of Uses

There are many important uses of radioactivity including

  • Medical uses
  • Energy uses
  • Industrial uses
  • general uses

General and industrial uses

The decay of Carbon-14 is used in radiocarbon dating, where the measurement of the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 permits the age of carbon-bearing materials to be determined.
The relative proportions of different radioactive isotopes are used in geology to determine the age of rocks. A similar approach using different isotopes enables sedimentologists and marine scientists to establish the chronology of sedimentary layers and reconstruct the deposition history of sediments in lakes, coastal zones and deep oceans.

Radioisotopes are widely used in industry e.g. in the measurement of the thickness of metal tyre cord using a Strontium-90 source, and in the inspection of solid objects (e.g. jet engines) to find possible structural flaws.

Radioisotopes are used in the irradiation of food to kill parasites, bacteria and certain insects, and to inhibit germination, sprouting or premature ripening.The food itself does not become radioactive.

Strong gamma sources (e.g. Cobalt-60) are used to sterilize medical equipment.

Radioisotopes are used to label biochemicals in order to trace chemical processes in living organisms. (This is especially useful in the area of immunology).

Radioactive substances are used in smoke alarms.

Heart pacemakers often contain a nuclear-powered battery. The battery’s energy is supplied by a small quantity of plutonium, which decays by alpha emission and the heat generated is converted to electricity by a semiconductor thermopile.

Research reactors have been built in many countries for educational use, research and for the production of radioactive isotopes.

Nuclear powered submarines have been built by the U.S., the U.K., Russia and France. The energy neede to propel the submarine is generated by a compact nuclear reactor on board the submarine.These reactors use a core of enriched uranium.

More Information

Uses 1
Uses 2