Applied Science AQA/Working with Radioisotopes

P03 Working with RadioisotopesEdit


... to be familiar with....   

Performance outcomes Pass Merit Distinction
To achieve a pass the learner must evidence that they can: In addition to the pass criteria, to achieve a merit the learner must evidence that they can: In addition to fulfilling the pass and merit criteria, to achieve a distinction the learner must evidence that they can:
PO3 P7

Follow standard procedure to measure the half-life of one radioisotope.


Relate the results of the experiment to the use of radioisotopes in medical treatments.


Summarise the advantages and disadvantages of alpha, beta and gamma radioisotopes in medical treatments.

Brief - and possible practical problemsEdit

The first criteria requires some practical work to determine the half-life of a radioisotope. In many schools, this will involve the use of a "protactinium generator".

But, if you do not have one (and can't afford one... although the physics department might be prepared to share in the investment), then there are some alternatives which the exam board would find acceptable. These include different types of simulation:

  • VPLab - the Virtual Physics Laboratory - this is a suite of simulations, which includes one called "Half Life" which allows you to gather data to find the half-life of Radon gas.
  • Throwing dice. Get a lot of dice. Throw them. remove and count the sixes. repeat until you have none left. Plotting the number thrown against how many times thrown gives you a good exponential graph, from which half-life can be calculated.

(And, if you do have the protactinium generator, the simulations are still a good way to learn about the issues.)

The merit and distinction criteria ask for you to connect the half-life found to real applications.



Key ConceptsEdit



– relating to criteria skills


to other sections within this book

to good external websites (including AQA website, wikipedia, relevant applications / companies) - also considering links in spec

References / BibliographyEdit

of recommended text books

including mapped refs to existing books

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