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Symbol Pu
Atomic Number 94
Atomic Mass 244 g.mol-1
Discovered by G.T. Seaborg in 1940

Chemical Properties of Plutonium

Group Actinides Melting point 640°C, 1184°F, 913 K
Period 7 Boiling point 3228°C, 5842°F, 3501 K
Block f Density (g cm−3) 11.71 at 20°C
Atomic number 94 Relative atomic mass [244]  
State at 20°C Solid Key isotopes 238Pu, 239Pu, 240Pu
Electron configuration [Rn]  5f7s2 CAS number 7440-07-5
ChemSpider ID 22382 ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database

What is Plutonium?

  • Plutonium is the second transuranic element with an atomic number of 94 and part of the actinide group of the periodic table.
  • Plutonium is named after planet Pluto similar to its predecessor neptunium named after the planet Neptune. It is an actinide metal with a silvery-gray appearance but when oxidized it forms a dull coating.
  • This element comprises of four oxidation states and six allotropes. It reacts with hydrogen and nitrogen.
  • The metal tends to get warm during alpha decay, to such an extent that it is possible to boil water when the element is present in large amounts.
  • Uranium is the main source of obtaining Plutonium which is obtained by the irradiation of uranium in nuclear reactors. Plutonium is generally not found in nature.

Uses of Plutonium

  • Plutonium isn’t of much use in any application due to its radioactive nature.
  • One of the main applications of this element is as a source of energy. It was used in the first atomic bombs.
  • The element is used in nuclear weapons as it is a key fissile component and because of its easier availability and ease of fission.
  • One of its isotope Plutonium-239 is used in new generation nuclear weapons.

Properties of Plutonium

  • Plutonium forms intermediate compounds and alloys with most metals.
  • Transuranium elements like Neptunium, Americium, Curium along with Plutonium are a radiological hazard and must be handled carefully with precaution.
  • The resistivity of plutonium is very high at room temperature. It is high even at low temperatures.
  • Plutonium increases in density when it melts by 2.5%, but it has a very high surface tension and viscosity when near its melting point compared to other metals.

Certain Facts About Plutonium

  • It was first produced in the year 1960. It was isolated and was used to create a nuclear bomb “Fat Man” that was dropped on Nagasaki during the second world war. The combined effect of the atomic bomb’s impact and radioactive after-effects claimed the lives of around 80,000 people.
  • Plutonium pyrophoricity can cause it to look like a glowing ember under certain conditions.
Test Your Knowledge On Plutonium!

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