• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Plutonium is a radioactive metallic element. It is found occasionally found in nature.

Extracts from this document...


Harsh Mungala                                                                                                                                                  MYP Assessment:

Glenis Goodman                                                                                                                                        Introducing an Element

10th grade Chemistry



Plutonium is a radioactive metallic element. It is found occasionally found in nature. Although, most of the time it is artificially produced in laboratories. The official chemical symbol for plutonium is "Pu", coming from its first and third letter of its full name. It has a atomic number of 94 and an atomic weight of [244] and it belongs to the Actinide Series. It has a very strange electron configuration of 2,8,18,32,24,8,2. Plutonium has a very high melting point of 620oC and an extremely high boiling point of 3460oC. The density of Plutonium, at twenty degrees centigrade, is 1986 grams per cubic centimeter.

Plutonium was discovered, in the laboratory, by Glenn Theodore Seaborg, and his assistant Edward M. McMillan. The two shared the Nobel prize in 1951 for their investigations on Plutonium (Pu) and discoveries of Americium (Am), Curium (Cm), Berkelium (Bk), and Californium (Cf).

Later on, Seaborg contributed with the discovery of three more radioactive elements, Einsteinium (Es), Mendelevium (Md), and Nobelium (No).

...read more.


Currently, there are fifteen known isotopes of Plutonium”, with mass numbers ranging between 232 and 246. The most important isotope is plutonium239 (also known as Pu-239). “When struck by a neutron, this isotope undergoes a process called fission.” In fission, when struck by a neutron, the nucleus of the plutonium atom is split into two nearly equal parts and energy is released. Although the energy released by one atom is not much, the splitting of the nucleus releases more neutrons, which strike more plutonium atoms. This process is called a chain-reaction and produces enormous amounts of energy. This energy is often used to power nuclear reactors, or to provide the energy for nuclear weapons.

Although plutonium is useful for generating electricity in nuclear power plants for our homes, it has other uses as well. The Plutonium isotope Pu238 is used to power all the long-range space missions. This isotope has a half life of almost 90 years. Batteries would not last long enough to power a space mission and solar power decreases to fast as the distance from the sun increases, making solar power unusable with current technology.

...read more.


        Another disadvantage is that it is hard to dispose. What many countries have done to overcome this problem is dump the radioactivity Plutonium into the seas, destroying marine life. Due to this problem much of Brazilian marine life forms were in danger. It took a very long time to settle the problem. But even today many countries make that mistake. Unfortunately, even I cannot suggest a better solution to this problem....  

Bibliography (text):




Encarta 1999 (CD)

The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science. Authors: Corinne Stockley, Chris Oxlade, Jane Wertheim

Friend living in Brazil

Bibliography (pictures):

www.chemsoc.org/viselements/pages/ data/plutonium_data.html

www.nobel.se/chemistry/laureates/ 1951/seaborg-bio.html

web.umr.edu/~reactor/ basicphysics.html

www.floridatoday.com/space/explore/ probes/cassini/tower2.jp

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Radioactivity section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Radioactivity essays

  1. The Importance Of Radioactive Decay And Half-Life.

    The fourth mode of decay, gamma radiation, consists of the emission of waves of electromagnetic energy. Scientists describe the radioactivity of an element in terms of half-life-the time the element takes to lose half of its activity through decay. This covers an extraordinary range of time, from a few microseconds to billions of years.

  2. Should radioactive smoke alarms be a compulsory purchase?

    where the smoke particles are less thick so these fires could gain a firm hold before being detected. It is also more expensive, making it a less attractive purchase. In addition, as well as smoke, the beam in the detector could also be interrupted by the entry of dust, steam or insects into the device.

  1. Use of a radioactive isotope in medicine

    Fig 2.a. Beta decay [Adapted from 10] Fig 2.b. Gamma decay [Taken from 10] Isotopes of mass less than 127 are produced in particle accelerators (common examples are 123I and 125I), while those with a mass greater than 127 are formed in neutron generators, such as nuclear reactors (common examples are 129I and 131I), or cyclotrons (fig.2).


    It is saying that solar power and wind turbines will be incomparable to nuclear power. If energy is not efficient blackouts will happen and then disrupt the public who can rely on the use of electricity. Reliability of source: it is a quotation from a member of Planet Save organisation; however it does not say who said it.

  1. Do Mobile Phones Cause Brain Tumours

    Despite its accuracy and reliability, it was not recently written. It was written in January of 1998, precisely 10 years ago. Ideas may have changed considerably since the article was written. 12- http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/braintumour1.shtml This source is reliable as it includes clearly structured and factual information on brain tumours.

  2. is nuclear power sustainable

    The timeline Nuclear power was not discovered by one person and was not realized over night, it was due to many famous minds and a long period of time dedicated to study, experiments and theory developing. The following cornerstones in time are what led to the discovery and creation of nuclear energy.

  1. Nuclear Power

    the ground, to put into perspective one pellet of uranium-235 (approximately 2cm long) would produce the same amount of energy as half a tonne of coal. This table shows that nuclear power is 270 times cleaner then coal and two times cleaner than air in terms of the amount of

  2. Effects of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    In this type a subcritical mass, which is in the shape of a ball, is placed in the center of the weapon. This subcritical mass is surrounded in a spherical arrangement of conventional explosives. When the fuse is triggered all of the conventional explosives explode at the same time.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work