Plutonium

By: Kalee Hall and Weatherly Reeves

What is Plutonium?

Plutonium is a radioactive chemical element. It was discovered by four men named Joseph W. Kennedy, Glenn T. Seaborg, Edwin Mcmillan, and Arthur Wahl on December 14, 1940 at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California. It’s symbol is Pu and it has the atomic number of 94. It’s appearance is a silvery gray, and it tarnishes when exposed to air. And it forms a dull coating when it is oxidized. Plutonium is Radioactive and can accumulate in bones, which makes it extremely dangerous to handle. Plutonium is fissile meaning that it can withstand a nuclear reaction. Leading to applications for nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.

Uses for Plutonium

Producing Plutonium in useful quantities for the first time was an important part of the Manhattan project during World War II that developed the first Atomic bomb. The fat man bombs used in the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945, and in the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 9, 1945. The bombs had Plutonium cores. Plutonium is used as a fuel for nuclear reactors and as an explosive in nuclear fissile weapons. Also, scientists have been studying Plutonium and are attempting to make an artificial heart out of it, which would be powered by a plutonium core.

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About Plutonium

Fun Facts about Plutonium

  • Plutonium has a melting point of 1,183 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pure plutonium is a silvery-white metal, although it quickly oxidizes in air to a dull finish.
  • There are six forms of plutonium. A seventh form exists at high temperatures Plutonium displays colorful oxidation states in aqueous solution. These states tend not to be stable, so plutonium solutions may spontaneously change oxidation states and colors.
  • Plutonium is a synthetic element.
  • Plutonium exists naturally only in the smallest imaginable amounts.

  • Plutonium is a member of the actinide family.

  • The actinides occur in Row 7 of the periodic table.