Curium (Cm)

by Katie Earl

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In 1944, Glenn Seaborg, Ralph James, and Albert Ghiorso created a new element, curium. It was produced in the University of California, Berkley, California and was made simply by bombarding plutonium in a nuclear reactor with alpha particles by using the cyclotron. It was then sent to Metallurgical Laboratory, where they found and isolated curium. Even though Marie and Pierre Curie had nothing to do with the discovery, Seaborg, James and Ghiorso decided to name it after the couple who discovered to radioactive elements. It was the third transuranium element to be discovered.


Because curium is a solid at room temperature, it has an extremely high melting point of 1345 degrees Celsius, and a boiling point of 3110 degrees Celsius. It has the appearance of a silvery metal, though because of it's high reactivity, it tarnishes rapidly when exposed to air. It is malleable, though because of it's radioactivity and, depending on the isotope, rapid decay, we can find if it is conductive, flammable, or how hard it is.
Located in the seventh row, in the section that is taken out of the table, it is eight spots from the left, atomic number 96 and mass number 247.


Curium has roughly 10 isotopes, though two of them are curium - 242 and curium - 247. Curium - 242 has a half life of 163 days, and decays into plutonium - 236 through alpha decay or spontaneous fission. Curium - 247 is the most stable isotope of curium. With a half life of 15.6 million years, it decays into plutonium - 243.


Curium has six compounds: curium dioxide (CmO2), curium trioxide (CM2O3), curium bromide (CmBr3), curium chloride (CmCl3), curium tetrafluoride (CmF4), and curium iodide (CmI3). None of these compounds are used commercially and have no commercial applications. Most, if not all are used for scientific research.


Curium is often used to provide power for the technology used on space missions and for the machines that are sent up into space, like satellites.

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