Plutonium: the essentials
Plutonium was the second transuranium element of the actinide series to be discovered. By far of greatest importance is the isotope 239Pu, which has a half-life of more than 20000 years. One kilogram is equivalent to about 22 million kilowatt hours of heat energy. The complete detonation of a kilogram of plutonium produces an explosion equal to about 20000 tons of chemical explosive. The various nuclear applications of plutonium are well known. The isotope 233Pu was used in the American Apollo lunar missions to power seismic and other equipment on the lunar surface. Plutonium contamination is an emotive environmental problem.
Plutonium dioxide, PuO2. Image adapted with permission from Prof James Marshall's (U. North Texas, USA) Walking Tour of the elements CD.
Plutonium: historical information
Plutonium was synthesized by Seaborg, McMillan, Kennedy and Wahl in 1940 by deuteron bombardment of uranium in a cyclotron (a device used to accelerate atomic particles) at Berkeley, California, USA. Plutonium was the second transuranium element of the actinide series to be discovered. In 1808 plutonium was suggested as a name for element 56 but Sir Humphrey Davy's original name of barium for element 56 still stands.
Plutonium around us Read more »
Plutonium has no biological role.
Plutonium is found in trace quantities in uranium ores but, in practice, normally it is synthesised by the transmutation of uranium. However, it is now found in very small quantities in some areas as a result of fallout from atomic bombs and from radiation leaks from nuclear facilities.
|Location||ppb by weight||ppb by atoms||Links|
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|Human||(no data) ppb by weight||(no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000|
Physical properties Read more »
Heat properties Read more »
- Melting point: 912.5 [639.4 °C (1182.9 °F)] K
- Boiling point: 3503 [3230 °C (5846 °F)] K
- Enthalpy of fusion: |203| kJ mol-1
Crystal structure Read more »
The solid state structure of plutonium is: monoclinic.
Plutonium: orbital properties Read more »
Plutonium atoms have 94 electrons and the shell structure is 220.127.116.11.24.8.2. The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Plutonium is [Rn].5f6.7s2 and the term symbol of Plutonium is 7F0.
- Pauling electronegativity: 1.28 (Pauling units)
- First ionisation energy: 584.7 kJ mol‑1
- Second ionisation energy: (no data) kJ mol‑1
Isolation: coming soon!
Plutonium isotopes Read more »