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De Hevesy did not succeed in this task (we now know that radium-D is the radioactive isotope Pb to measure the solubility of lead salts—the first application of an isotopic tracer technique.
De Hevesy went on to pioneer the application of isotopic tracers to study biological processes and is generally considered to be the founder of a very important area in which nuclear chemists work today, the field of nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medicine is a rapidly expanding branch of health care that uses short-lived radioactive isotopes to diagnose illnesses and to treat specific diseases.
Nuclear chemists synthesize drugs from radionuclides produced in nuclear reactors or accelerators that are injected into the patient and will then seek out specific organs or cancerous tumors.
Nuclear chemists were involved in the chemical purification of plutonium obtained from uranium targets that had been irradiated in reactors.
They also developed chemical separation techniques to isolate radioactive isotopes for industrial and medical uses from the fission products wastes associated with plutonium production for weapons.
In fact, the chemical techniques pioneered by nuclear chemists have become so important that biologists, geologists, and physicists use nuclear chemistry as ordinary tools of their disciplines.
Both Mc Millan and Seaborg recognized that the chemical properties of neptunium and plutonium did not resemble those of rhenium and osmium, as many had predicted, but more closely resembled the chemistry of uranium, a fact that led Seaborg in 1944 to propose that the transuranic elements were part of a new group of elements called the actinide series that should be placed below the lanthanide series on the periodic chart. Diagnosis involves use of the radiopharmaceutical to generate an image of the tumor or organ to identify problems that may be missed by x rays or physical examinations. Treatment involves using radioactive compounds at carefully controlled doses to destroy tumors. Nuclear chemistry is the study of the chemical and physical properties of elements as influenced by changes in the structure of the atomic nucleus.Modern nuclear chemistry, sometimes referred to as radiochemistry, has become very interdisciplinary in its applications, ranging from the study of the formation of the elements in the universe to the design of radioactive drugs for diagnostic medicine.