Isotopic labeling

Isotopic Labeling

Isotopic labeling

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Isotopic labeling is a technique for tracking the passage of a sample of substance through a system. The substance is 'labeled' by including unusual isotopes in its chemical composition. If these unusual isotopes are later detected in a certain part of the system, they must have come from the labeled substance.

In ordinary isotopic labeling, there are two ways to detect the presence of labeling isotopes. Since isotopes have different masses, they can be separated using mass spectrometry. Another consequence of the difference in mass is that molecules containing isotopes have different vibrational modes; these can be detected by infrared spectroscopy.

Isotopic labeling can also be used to study chemical reactions. In this method specific atoms are replaced by an isotope in a reactant molecule which then participates in a chemical reaction. With spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for example, it is now possible to identify where a particular molecular fragment in the reactant ends up as a particular fragment in one of the reaction products.

An example of the use of isotopic labeling is the study of phenol (C<sub>6</sub>H<sub>5</sub>OH) in water by replacing common hydrogen (protium) with deuterium (deuterium labeling). Upon adding phenol to deuterated water (water containing D<sub>2</sub>O in addition to the usual H<sub>2</sub>O), the substitution of deuterium for the hydrogen is observed in phenol's......
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