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Polonium

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  • Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84, discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie.

  • Polonium is the first element of the periodic table for which all of its isotopes are radioactive. It
    is a very rare natural element, Gen Roessler existing in uranium ores in amounts of about 100 µg per ton of ore.

  • There are seven polonium isotopes that arise from the naturally occurring thorium (212Po, 216Po), actinium (211Po, 215Po), and uranium (210Po,214Po, 218Po) decay series. Because none of these isotopes has a long half time, they do not accumulate in the natural environment to any significant extent polonium metal is silvery gray in color and interacts to varying extent with O2 depending on the temperature. Practically, the metal can be maintained only under inert atmosphere.

  • Because the specific activity of 210Po is so high (166 TBq g-1), milligram quantities will exist at
    temperatures well above ambient. The electron configuration of neutral polonium resembles those of selenium and tellurium Polonium-210 is widely found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. This is because it is produced during the decay of another natural element called uranium-238.
    It can also be produced by processing uranium ores or  minerals, but the amount produced is very small. Very small amounts of polonium-210 are found in food.

  • Polonium-210 is used mainly in machines to get rid of static electricity. Machines used to make paper, sheet plastics and synthetic fibers often use this element.

  • Polonium-210 is also used in brushes to remove dust from photographic films and camera lenses. It can be used to make atomic weapons Polonium-210 is found almost everywhere in nature in low levels, so exposure cannot be completely prevented.

  • The best way to limit exposure is to not breathe tobacco smoke. Radiation from polonium-210
    cannot go through outer dead layers of skin or through clothing. Eyes or open wounds must be carefully protected.

  • Polonium is an alpha-emitter, and is used as an alpha-particle source for scientific research in the form of a thin film on a stainless steel disc. It is also used as a heat source in space equipment.
     

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