Why Do We Use Isotopes?
Isotope analyses are used for a wide variety of applications. For example, radiocarbon analyses have been used to determine the age of geological deposits left by the last glacial period and to date archeological artifacts. Tritium and radiocarbon analyses have been used to determine the age of our groundwater supplies and how well protected they are from surface contamination.
Radiocarbon and stable isotopes also have been used to study past environments and paleoclimates of Illinois. A combination of isotope analyses have been used to identify landfill gases and leachate and determine the sources of excess methane and carbon dioxide found in soils and basements. Nitrogen and oxygen isotopes have been used to identify source of elevated nitrate concentration in natural water and to study the extent of denitrification. Sulfur isotopes have been used to help determine sources of sulfate in groundwater.
The applications of isotope analyses are continuously growing and helping scientists to better understand our environment and find answers to problems where chemical and physical analyses alone do not yield enough information for definitive solutions.
Updated 07/17/2012 SLD