Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What is Curium?

One of the rare metals, curium is radioactive in nature. It is hard, brittle and silvery. It's occurrence is not in nature and hence is a synthetic element. It has to be made in a nuclear reactor. The process of making curium in a nuclear reactor is by neutron capture reactions from plutonium and americium isotopes.

Curium glowing in the dark
Curium was discovered by American Chemist Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James and Albert Ghiorso in 1944 in USA. The metal was named after chemist and physicist Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, who are known to be the pioneers of radioactivity.

One of the property of Curium is that, it tarnishes slowly in dry air at room temperature. Most of it's compounds are faintly yellow. Curium is highly radioactive and glows red in dark. Curium is considered to be dangerous. If curium enters the body it gets accumulated in the bone marrow and with it's radiation starts destroying the marrow and further stops red blood cell formation.

What is Curium used for?

Presently curium is used only for basic scientific research. Curium 244 is a power source in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). It is also used in the Alpha Proton X-Ray Spectrometer (AXPS) which is used in measuring the abundance of chemical elements and soils on Mars.

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