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Seaborg and coworkers went on to discover many more new elements and radioactive isotopes and to study their chemical and physical properties.
At the present, nuclear chemists are involved in trying to discover new elements beyond the 112 that are presently confirmed and to study the chemical properties of these new elements, even though they may exist for only a few thousandths of a second.
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.
Today, many of these same chemical separation techniques are being used by nuclear chemists to clean up radioactive wastes resulting from the fifty-year production of nuclear weapons and to treat wastes derived from the production of nuclear power.
In 1940, at the University of California in Berkeley, Edwin Mc Millan and Philip Abelson produced the first manmade element, neptunium (Np), by the bombardment of uranium with low energy neutrons from a nuclear accelerator.
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.
While the common perception is that nuclear chemistry involves only the study of radioactive nuclei, advances in modern mass spectrometry instrumentation has made chemical studies using stable, nonradioactive isotopes increasingly important.
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.
De Hevesy also is credited with discovering the technique of neutron activation analysis, in which samples are bombarded by neutrons in a nuclear reactor or from a neutron generator, and the resulting radioactive isotopes are measured, allowing the analysis of the elemental composition of the sample.
In Germany in 1938, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, skeptical of claims by Enrico Fermi and Irène Joliot-Curie that bombardment of uranium by neutrons produced new so-called transuranic elements (elements beyond uranium), repeated these experiments and chemically isolated a radioactive isotope of barium.
This isotopic fractionation results from temperature differences in the environment in which the material was formed (at a given temperature, the lighter isotope will be very slightly more reactive than the heavier isotope), or from different chemical reaction sequences.
The newest area in which nuclear chemists play an important role is the field of nuclear medicine.
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Nuclear chemists were involved in the chemical purification of plutonium obtained from uranium targets that had been irradiated in reactors.