Polonium Facts

Polonium Facts
Polonium (Po) has an atomic number of eighty-four, and the same number of protons in the nucleus of one atom. It is the element with more isotopes than any other, and all of them are radioactive.
Interesting Polonium Facts:
In 1898, Marie Curie discovered polonium while trying to determine the cause of pitchblende's radioactivity.
When the uranium and thorium were removed from the sample of pitchblende, Curie and her husband Pierre discovered that it somehow became even more radioactive.
It was the first element she ever discovered.
Polonium was named after her native country of Poland in an attempt to bring attention to its lack of independence.
Opinion varies on whether polonium is a metal or metalloid element.
Historically, polonium played an important military role, as it was crucial to the design of the Fat Man bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Information on polonium and its weapon uses was not de-classified until after World War II and on into the 1960s.
The Manhattan Project also conducted human experiments on polonium during the 1940s.
Gamma spectroscopy is used to detect the radioactive isotopes in polonium, as well as their concentrations and positions.
Polonium is an extremely rare element due to the extremely short half-life of its isotopes.
It is found in uranium ore at a concentration of 0.1 milligrams per metric ton of ore.
The amounts found in the Earth's crust are not considered to be detrimental.
Natural polonium is hard to extract.
The largest amount ever produced from natural products came from refining 37 tons of radium residue, which yielded only nine milligrams of polonium.
Most polonium is now produced by bombarding bismuth with neutrons or protons.
There are thirty-three known isotopes of polonium.
All of the isotopes are radioactive.
The most abundant of the radioisotopes is Po-210, which has a half-life of only 138 days.
Another, Po-210, is an alpha emitter, and one gram of the isotope will spontaneously heat up in air to a temperature of more than 500 degrees Celsius.
This reaction generates nearly 140 watts of power, making polonium useful for thermoelectric generators.
These generators are vital for keeping components warm enough during space exploration.
Polonium was used in the Lunokhod 1 and Lonkhod 2 lunar rovers, as well as in other satellites.
Polonium also has applications in industry where static electricity must be eliminated.

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