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Polonium (Po): Metalloids

Polonium (Po)

What is Polonium?

Polonium (Po), a radioactive, silvery-gray or black metallic element of the oxygen group (Group 16 [VIa] in the periodic table). The first element to be discovered by radiochemical analysis, polonium was discovered in 1898 by Pierre and Marie Curie, who were investigating the radioactivity of a certain pitchblende, a uranium ore. The very intense radioactivity not attributable to uranium was ascribed to a new element, named by them after Marie Curie’s homeland, Poland. The discovery was announced in July 1898. Polonium is extremely rare, even in pitchblende: 1,000 tons of the ore must be processed to obtain 40 milligrams of polonium. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

The History

Uranium ores contain minute traces of polonium at levels of parts per billion. Despite this, in 1898 Marie Curie and husband Pierre Curie extracted some from pitchblende (uranium oxide, U3O8) after months of painstaking work. The existence of this element had been forecast by Mendeleev who could see from his periodic table that there might well be the element that followed bismuth and he predicted it would have an atomic weight of 212. The Curies had extracted the isotope polonium-209 and which has a half-life of 103 years.

Before the advent of nuclear reactors, the only source of polonium was uranium ore but that did not prevent its being separated and used in anti-static devices. These relied on the alpha particles that polonium emits to neutralise electric charge. Continue reading from The Royal Society of Chemistry

Polonium Facts

Polonium is of little use to humans, with the exception of some menacing applications: It was used as a trigger in the first atomic bomb and is also a suspected poison in a couple of high-profile deaths. In commercial applications, polonium is occasionally used to remove static electricity in machinery or dust from photographic film. It can also be used as a lightweight heat source for thermoelectric power in space satellites. The first person to die of polonium poisoning may have been Marie Curie's daughter Irène Joliot-Curie. Continue reading from LiveScience

Chart of Elemental Properties for Polonium

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