558px-Electron shell 084 Polonium svg
Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84, discovered in 1898 by Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. A rare and highly radioactive metalloid, polonium is chemically similar to bismuth and tellurium, and it occurs in uranium ores. Polonium has been studied for possible use in heating spacecraft. It is unstable; all isotopes of polonium are radioactive.


Polonium has 33 known isotopes, all of which are radioactive. They have atomic masses that range from 188 to 220 u. 210Po (half-life 138.376 days) is the most widely available. 209Po (half-life 103 years) and 208Po (half-life 2.9 years) can be made through the alpha, proton, or deuteron bombardment of lead or bismuth in a cyclotron.

210Po is an alpha emitter that has a half-life of 138.376 days; it decays directly to its stable daughter isotope, 206Pb. A milligram of 210Po emits about as many alpha particles per second as 4.5 grams of 226Ra. A few curies (1 curie equals 37 gigabecquerels, 1 Ci = 37 GBq) of 210Po emit a blue glow which is caused by excitation of surrounding air. A single gram of 210Po generates 140 watts of power.

Because it emits many alpha particles, which are stopped within a very short distance in dense media and release their energy, 210Po has been used as a lightweight heat source to power thermoelectric cells in artificial satellites; for instance, 210Po heat source was also used in each of the Lunokhod rovers deployed on the surface of the Moon, to keep their internal components warm during the lunar nights. Some anti-static brushes contain up to 500 microcuries (20 MBq) of 210Po as a source of charged particles for neutralizing static electricity in materials like photographic film.

The majority of the time 210Po decays by emission of an alpha particle only, not by emission of an alpha particle and a gamma ray. About one in 100,000 alpha emissions causes an excitation in the nucleus which then results in the emission of a gamma ray. This low gamma ray production rate (and the short range of alpha particles) makes it difficult to find and identify this isotope. Rather than gamma ray spectroscopy, alpha spectroscopy is the best method of measuring this isotope.

Polonium is a radioactive element that exists in two metallic allotropes. The alpha form has a simple cubic crystal structure with an edge length of 335.2 picometres; the beta form is rhombohedral. The structure of polonium has been characterized by X-ray diffraction and electron diffraction.

210Po (in common with 238Pu) has the ability to become airborne with ease: if a sample is heated in air to 55 °C (131 °F), 50% of it is vaporized in 45 hours, even though the melting point of polonium is 254 °C (489 °F) and its boiling point is 962 °C (1763 °F). More than one hypothesis exists for how polonium does this; one suggestion is that small clusters of polonium atoms are spalled off by the alpha decay.

The chemistry of polonium is similar to that of tellurium and bismuth. Polonium dissolves readily in dilute acids, but is only slightly soluble in alkalis. The hydrogen compound PoH2 is liquid at room temperature (melting point −36.1°C, boiling point 35.3°C). Halides of the structure PoX2, PoX4 and PoX6 are known. The two oxides PoO2 and PoO3 are the products of oxidation of polonium.

It has been reported that some microbes can methylate polonium by the action of methylcobalamin. This is similar to the way in which mercury, selenium and tellurium are methylated in living things to create organometallic compounds. As a result when considering the biochemistry of polonium one should consider the possibility that the polonium will follow the same biochemical pathways as selenium and tellurium.


The base value of each unit of ranges between 10 and 20Ð per unit, with up to 3 units being found at any one time.

Presence on Mars: Rare

Martian Minerals
Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6
Group 3 |Antimony | Astatine | Barium | Bismuth | Cesium | Francium | Hafnium | Indium | Iodine | Iridium | Lanthanum | Lead | Mercury | |Osmium | Platinum | Polonium | Radium | Radon | Rhenium | Tantalum | Tellurium | Thallium | Tin | Tungsten | Xenon|

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