Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-white appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation states. It reacts with carbon, halogens, nitrogen and silicon. When exposed to moist air, it forms oxides and hydrides that expand the sample up to 70% in volume, which in turn flake off as a powder that can spontaneously ignite. It is also a radioactive poison that accumulates in bone marrow. These and other properties make the handling of plutonium dangerous.
The most important isotope of plutonium is plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,100 years. Plutonium-239 and 241 are fissile, meaning the nuclei of their atoms can break apart by being bombarded by slow moving thermal neutrons, releasing energy, gamma radiation and more neutrons. It can therefore sustain a nuclear chain reaction, leading to applications in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. Plutonium is the heaviest naturally occurring or primordial element; the most stable isotope of plutonium is plutonium-244, with a half-life of about 80 million years. Plutonium-238 has a half-life of 88 years and emits alpha particles. It is a heat source in radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which are used to power some spacecraft. Plutonium-240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission, raising the neutron flux of any sample it is contained in. The presence of plutonium-240 effectively limits a sample's weapon potential and determines its grade.
Plutonium, like most metals, has a bright silvery appearance at first, much like nickel, but it oxidizes very quickly to a dull gray, although yellow and olive green are also reported. At room temperature plutonium is in its α form (alpha). This, the most common structural form of the element (allotrope), is about as hard and brittle as grey cast iron unless it is alloyed with other metals to make it soft and ductile. Unlike most metals, it is not a good conductor of heat or electricity. It has a low melting point (640 °C) and an unusually high boiling point (3,327 °C). Alpha particle emission, which is the release of high-energy helium nuclei, is the most common form of radiation given off by plutonium. A typical nuclear weapon core of 5 kg contains about 12.5 × 1024 atoms. With a half life of 24,100 years, about 11.5 × 1012 of its atoms decay each second by emitting a 5.157 MeV alpha particle. This amounts to 9.68 watts of energy. Heat produced by the deceleration of these alpha particles make it warm to the touch. Resistivity is a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. The resistivity of plutonium at room temperature is very high for a metal, and it gets even higher with lower temperatures, which is unusual for metals.
Because of self-irradiation, a sample of plutonium fatigues throughout its crystal structure, meaning the ordered arrangement of its atoms becomes disrupted by radiation with time. However, self-irradiation can also lead to annealing which counteracts some of the fatigue effects as temperature increases above 100 K. Unlike most materials, plutonium increases in density when it melts, by 2.5%, but the liquid metal exhibits a linear decrease in density with temperature. Near the melting point, the liquid plutonium has also very high viscosity and surface tension as compared to other metals.
The base value of each unit of ranges between 75 and 135Ð per unit, with up to 2 units being found at any one time.
Presence on Mars: Very Rare
|Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6|
|Group 5||| Americium | Anthraximite | Areanetium Dieinsteinium | Areanetium Ferrocrete | Areanetium Mendelite | Berkelium | Bohrium | |Californium | Curium | Darmstadtium | Einsteinium | Fermium | Fermium Hasside | Ferro-plat Alloy | Hassium | Lawrencium | |Meitnerium | Meitnerium Golgathide | Mendelevium | Neptunium | Nobelium | Plutonium | Roentgenium | Seaborgium | |Transuranic Alloblast ||