Polonium

9.20
209
[Xe] 4f145d106s26p4
209Po, 210Po
16
6
p
84
2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 6
811.828
Po
9.20
254°C, 489°F, 527 K
962°C, 1764°F, 1235 K
Marie Curie
1898
7440-08-6
4886482
More Information
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Uses and Properties

Image Explanation

In anti-static brushes, Polonium serves the purpose of dust removal from photographic film, enclosed within the brushes to manage and contain its radioactive emissions.

Appearance

A silvery-grey, radioactive semi-metal.

Uses

Unveiling the Astonishing Applications of Polonium: Beyond its Radioactive Nature


Polonium, often recognized for its radioactive properties, is a remarkable element with a myriad of applications that extend far beyond its notorious reputation. While its presence in the Earth's crust is predominantly in trace amounts, the unique characteristics of Polonium-210 (Po-210) have paved the way for innovative uses in various fields. In this article, we delve into the lesser-known applications of Polonium, shedding light on its positive contributions to science, technology, and medicine.

 

Static Eliminators and Dust Precipitation


Polonium has found application in industries where static electricity poses a challenge. By harnessing its radioactive nature, Po-210 is utilized in static eliminators, aiding in the neutralization of electric charges on surfaces. Additionally, it has been employed in dust precipitation devices, contributing to cleaner and more controlled environments.

 

Nuclear Reactor Neutron Initiators


Polonium plays a crucial role in the initiation of nuclear reactions, particularly in neutron initiators for nuclear reactors. Its ability to emit alpha particles makes it an effective initiator, contributing to the controlled release of nuclear energy. This application showcases the dual nature of Polonium, not only as a potential hazard but also as a key component in advancing energy production technologies.

 

Space Exploration Power Sources


In the realm of space exploration, where conventional power sources may be impractical, Polonium has found its niche. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) utilize the heat generated from the radioactive decay of Po-210 to produce electrical power for space probes and satellites. The longevity and reliability of Polonium-powered RTGs have made them integral to deep-space missions, such as those exploring the outer reaches of our solar system.

 

Cancer Treatment and Research


The medical field has harnessed the unique properties of Polonium for cancer treatment and research. Targeted alpha-particle radiotherapy, utilizing Po-210, has shown promising results in treating certain types of cancers. The precision of alpha particles in damaging cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue makes Polonium a valuable tool in the fight against cancer.

 

Electrostatic Precipitators in Air Purification


Polonium's ionizing properties make it an effective component in electrostatic precipitators used for air purification. These devices utilize electrostatic forces to remove particulate matter from air streams, enhancing indoor air quality and contributing to pollution control efforts. Polonium's role in this application demonstrates its potential for creating cleaner and healthier environments.

 

Conclusion


While Polonium's radioactive nature rightfully demands cautious handling, its diverse applications underscore its importance in various scientific and technological endeavors. From static eliminators to cancer treatment, and from nuclear reactors to space exploration, the unique properties of Polonium continue to unlock new possibilities for innovation. As we explore the untapped potential of this element, it becomes evident that Polonium's positive contributions are a testament to the dynamic interplay between science, technology, and the quest for advancements that benefit humanity.

History

In the vast tapestry of the periodic table, one element stands out for its intriguing history and unique properties—Polonium. Symbolized by the capital letter P and bearing the atomic number 84, Polonium has a storied past that intertwines with scientific discovery, political intrigue, and groundbreaking research. This article embarks on a journey through time to explore the fascinating history of Polonium, from its discovery to its diverse applications in the modern world.

 

Discovery and Early Observations


The tale of Polonium begins in the late 19th century with the scientific duo Marie and Pierre Curie. In 1898, the Curies were investigating the properties of the newly discovered element, radium, when they made a serendipitous discovery. Through careful experimentation, they isolated a highly radioactive substance that exhibited unique characteristics. This substance was named Polonium, in honor of Marie Curie's homeland, Poland.

 

Isolation and Naming


The process of isolating Polonium was no small feat. The Curies worked tirelessly, isolating it from uranium ore through a series of meticulous chemical separations. Their efforts led to the identification of a new element with potent radioactive properties. Polonium's name was officially coined, marking the beginning of its distinct identity on the periodic table.

 

Radioactive Prowess


One of the defining features of Polonium is its intense radioactivity. This property, while posing challenges in handling, became a hallmark of its applications in various scientific and industrial fields. The emission of alpha particles, discovered by Ernest Rutherford in 1899, added to the allure of Polonium and set the stage for its future uses.

 

Political Intrigue and the Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko


The history of Polonium took an unexpected turn in 2006 when it became embroiled in a high-profile political assassination. The former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko was fatally poisoned with a lethal dose of Polonium-210, sparking international intrigue and diplomatic tensions. This incident highlighted the darker side of Polonium, emphasizing the need for stringent controls and responsible handling of this radioactive element.

 

Applications in Science and Industry


Beyond its notoriety, Polonium has carved a niche for itself in scientific research and various industries. Its alpha-emitting properties make it valuable in nuclear physics experiments, where precise radiation sources are essential. Polonium-210 has also been employed in devices such as nuclear reactor initiators, showcasing its role in advancing energy technologies.

 

Medical Marvel: Polonium in Cancer Treatment


Polonium's journey extends to the realm of medicine, where its radioactive properties are harnessed for therapeutic purposes. Targeted alpha-particle radiotherapy, utilizing Polonium-210, has shown promise in treating certain types of cancers. The ability of alpha particles to deliver precise and localized radiation to cancer cells underscores Polonium's potential as a medical marvel in the fight against cancer.

 

Conclusion


As we traverse the historical landscape of Polonium, its narrative emerges as a tale of scientific curiosity, political intrigue, and transformative applications. From the laboratories of the Curies to the complexities of modern medical treatments, Polonium has left an indelible mark on the scientific community. While its radioactive nature demands respect and caution, the contributions of Polonium to science, industry, and medicine exemplify the multifaceted nature of this enigmatic element. In the ongoing story of Polonium, the chapters of discovery and innovation continue to unfold, promising new insights and applications for the future.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 1.97
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 183.3
Covalent Radiues (A): 1.42
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 2.0
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
811.828 - - - - - - -

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 6, 4, 2
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
209Po 208.982  - 128 y α
210Po 209.983 - 138.4 d α

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: Unknown
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 0.0000000002
Recycle Rate (%): Unknown
Production Conc.(%) : Unknown
Top 3 Producers:
Unknown
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
Unknown
Substitutability: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Producer: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: Unknown

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: Unknown
Shear Modulus: Unknown
Young Modulus: Unknown
Bulk Modulus: Unknown
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
- - - - - - - - - - Unknown

Podcast

Transcript:

Welcome Dear listeners, to another enlightening episode of "Elemental Discoveries," the podcast that unravels the mysteries of the chemical elements. Today, we embark on a journey into the intriguing world of Polonium.

Polonium, symbol Po, and atomic number 84, is a unique and rare element with a fascinating history. It was discovered in 1898 by Polish-French scientist Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie. They named it "polonium" in honor of Marie's homeland, Poland.

This discovery was a remarkable achievement in the field of radioactivity and earned Marie Curie her second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, making her the first person ever to receive Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields.

Polonium is a radioactive element with no stable isotopes. It exhibits unique properties due to its position in the periodic table. One of its most striking features is its intense radioactivity, making it highly hazardous to handle. Polonium undergoes alpha decay, emitting alpha particles, which consist of two protons and two neutrons.

Polonium's chemical properties are similar to those of its neighboring elements, tellurium and bismuth. It can form compounds with various elements, but its most well-known compound is polonium chloride (PoCl4).

Polonium is exceptionally rare in nature and is primarily produced artificially in nuclear reactors. It can be found in trace amounts in uranium ores, as it is a decay product of uranium-238 (U-238). The very limited natural occurrence of polonium is due to its short half-life; the most stable isotope, polonium-210 (Po-210), has a half-life of only 138.4 days.

The production of polonium typically involves irradiating bismuth-209 (Bi-209) with neutrons in a nuclear reactor. This process transmutes the bismuth into polonium. The resulting polonium is separated and purified for various applications.

Despite its extreme radioactivity and scarcity, polonium has found applications in various fields.

Polonium has been used in the calibration of radiation detectors and the study of alpha decay.

In the mid-20th century, polonium-based anti-static devices were used in industries like textiles and printing. However, due to its radioactivity, these devices have been largely replaced with safer alternatives.

Polonium-210 has been employed as a neutron initiator in certain types of nuclear weapons.

Polonium-210 has been used as a power source in space missions, where its heat-producing radioactive decay is converted into electricity through thermoelectric generators.

Polonium-210 is used in various scientific instruments, such as alpha particle sources for particle detectors and nuclear physics experiments.

It's crucial to emphasize that polonium is highly radioactive and poses significant health risks. Even small amounts of polonium can be lethal if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Its alpha radiation cannot penetrate the skin, but it becomes extremely hazardous when introduced into the body.

Due to these health concerns, the use and handling of polonium are strictly regulated, and it is primarily used in specialized facilities and for highly controlled scientific and industrial purposes.

Polonium's legacy is intertwined with the pioneering work of Marie Curie and her contributions to the field of radioactivity. While it may not have the widespread applications of more common elements, its discovery has had a lasting impact on science and our understanding of the atomic world.

In conclusion, polonium is a remarkable and rare element with a rich history and unique properties. Its discovery by Marie and Pierre Curie marked a significant milestone in the study of radioactivity. Despite its limited natural occurrence and extreme radioactivity, polonium has found applications in various fields, primarily in nuclear physics and space exploration.

Thank you for joining us on this exploration of polonium, a radioactive element that continues to intrigue scientists and enthusiasts alike. As we delve into the world of chemical elements, we uncover the diverse and dynamic nature of the building blocks of our universe.

References


  • W. M. Haynes, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, 95th Edition, Internet Version 2015, accessed December 2014.

  • Tables of Physical & Chemical Constants, Kaye & Laby Online, 16th edition, 1995. Version 1.0 (2005), accessed December 2014.

  • J. S. Coursey, D. J. Schwab, J. J. Tsai, and R. A. Dragoset, Atomic Weights and Isotopic Compositions (version 4.1), 2015, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, accessed November 2016.

  • T. L. Cottrell, The Strengths of Chemical Bonds, Butterworth, London, 1954.

  • John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, New York, 2nd Edition, 2011.