Is oxygen-17 radioactive?

Oxygen-17 is a stable isotope of oxygen, meaning it is not radioactive. It is one of the naturally occurring isotopes of oxygen, along with oxygen-16 and oxygen-18, with eight protons and nine neutrons. Oxygen-17 plays a crucial role in various scientific fields, such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and geochemistry.

Unlike radioactive isotopes, oxygen-17 does not undergo radioactive decay and does not emit radiation. Its stable nature makes it a valuable tool for researchers to study various chemical and biological processes. Oxygen-17 is often used in studies related to water molecules and mineral formations, providing insights into the Earth’s geology and environmental processes.

Understanding Oxygen-17 and Radioactivity

Oxygen-17, or O-17 for short, is one of the stable isotopes of oxygen that exists in nature. Isotopes are elements that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. While some isotopes are stable and non-radioactive, others exhibit radioactivity. But what about oxygen-17? Is it radioactive? Let’s find out.

Stability of Oxygen-17 Isotope

In the case of O-17, it is a stable isotope. This means it does not undergo radioactive decay. Stability in isotopes depends on the balance between protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. In the case of Oxygen-17, it has 8 protons and 9 neutrons, resulting in a stable configuration.

Radioactive Isotopes of Oxygen

While oxygen-17 is stable, there are other isotopes of oxygen that do exhibit radioactivity. Three of the most well-known radioactive isotopes of oxygen are oxygen-15 (O-15), oxygen-16 (O-16), and oxygen-18 (O-18).


Oxygen-15 is a radioactive isotope of oxygen that serves as a valuable tool in medical imaging. It has a relatively short half-life of approximately 2 minutes, which makes it ideal for positron emission tomography (PET) scans. PET scans involve injecting a small amount of a radioactive substance into the body to visualize metabolic processes and diagnose diseases.


Oxygen-16 is the most abundant isotope of oxygen found in nature. It is stable and non-radioactive, making up approximately 99.76% of oxygen atoms. Oxygen-16 is an essential element for sustaining life and is involved in various biological and chemical processes.


Oxygen-18 is another stable isotope of oxygen, but it is not as abundant as oxygen-16. It is often used in scientific research, particularly in the field of paleoclimatology, to study the Earth’s climate history. Oxygen-18 is also used in medical research to trace metabolic processes and as a non-radioactive tracer in various studies.

Applications of Oxygen-17

Although oxygen-17 is not radioactive, it still plays a crucial role in scientific research. It is commonly used in a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. NMR spectroscopy is a powerful analytical tool used in chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine to investigate the structure and behavior of molecules by studying the interactions of atomic nuclei with a magnetic field.

Oxygen-17 is particularly useful in NMR experiments because of its unique magnetic properties. Its presence in certain molecules can provide valuable insights into their structure and dynamics. It allows scientists to study various compounds, such as drugs, proteins, and DNA, at the atomic level, aiding in the development of new drugs and understanding biological processes.

In summary, oxygen-17 is not a radioactive isotope. It is a stable form of oxygen, along with oxygen-16 and oxygen-18. Other isotopes of oxygen, such as oxygen-15, exhibit radioactivity and have their own distinct applications in medical imaging and scientific research. While oxygen-17 may not be radioactive, its unique properties make it a valuable tool in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, contributing to advancements in various scientific fields.

Oxygen-17 is not radioactive. It is a stable isotope of oxygen with 8 protons and 9 neutrons, making it non-radioactive. This makes oxygen-17 a useful tool in scientific research, particularly in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

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