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Chemical Elements

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History of Radium Radium was first discovered by Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and an assistant, G. Bemont in 1898. Marie Curie observed that pitchblende had five times the radioactivity of uranium, even after urnanium was removed from it. Also the rest of the difference in radioactivity wasn’t accounted by polonium. This led her to believe there must be another element causing the great difference in radioactivity. In 1902 Marie Curie and André-Louis Debierne refined several tons of pitchblende to obtain 0.1 gram of pure radium chloride. In 1910 they had both managed to isolate the metal itself. During this time radium was hard isolate and a material which still hadn’t been explored, so it wasn’t put to use. However, by the 1940’s radium was in great demand due to the discovery of its use in X-rays and other war related uses. Radium wasn't very easily acquired, causing it to be quite expensive at the time.

Physical and Chemical Properties Radium has very different physical and chemical properties from other elements due to it being a radioactive material. Some unique properties that radium has is that is emits alpha, beta and gamma rays. It produces neutrons when mixed with beryllium (Be). Also being a radioactive substance over time it disintegrates releasing radon gas. During the time radium disintegrates it loses 1% of its activity every 25 years, the final product of its disintegration being lead (Pb). Radium is white when in its pure metal form but turns black when exposed to air because it forms radium nitride on the surface. It is luminescent (glows), decomposes in water and when put in a flame turns the flame a bright red colour.

Societal Applications Radon gas is used to treat cancer, through Radiotherapy. In which, the gas is concentrated on cancerous tumors causing the cancer cells to die and slows reproduction of the cells. Formerly, radium was used in luminous paints however it was said to be too hazardous. Radium when mixed with beryllium produces neutrons. Neutron sources are used commonly in physics, chemistry, medicine, biology, engineering nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Radium isn’t a very commonly used material to day for two main reasons. One reason being, that radium is hazardous when being exposed to for long periods time. Also because it is not easily obtained and there isn’t a large abundance of radium.

Genral Information Radium (Ra) is an alkaline earth metal with an atomic number of 88 and an atomic weight of 226. It is a radioactive element and is solid at room temperature. Radium is located in the second group on the periodic table and the seventh period. It shares many similarities with the element above it, barium, however barium isn’t radioactive.


Physical Properties Melting Point: 700 °CBoiling Point: 1737 °CState (at room temperature): SolidDensity: 5000 kg m-3Colour: Silvery-white metal when freshly cut,blackens on exposure to air.Electronic Conductivity: ConductiveThermal Conductivity: Conductive Other: Pure radium glows in the dark

Chemical PropertiesRadium is constantly releasing a gas known as radon gas. This gas is a noble gas, which is colourless, odourless, radioactive and inert. Another chemical property of radium is that when put in water forms Ra+2. Radium also produces neutrons when combined with beryllium.

More about Marie Curie...

More about radium...

Radium-Atomic structure

Fresh Cut Radium

Marie Curie


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