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What is Actinium?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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Actinium is a radioactive chemical element which is found in trace amounts in uranium ore. This element has a relatively short half life, and it is so radioactive that it has few industrial uses. The primary use for actinium is in scientific research. Consumers should rarely, if ever, interact with this element, which is just as well since it is extremely dangerous in the hands of people who are not experienced in handling radioactive materials.

When this element is isolated, it proves to be a silvery color, and it will glow blue in the dark due to its radioactivity. The element shares a number of chemical properties with lanthanum, and the radioactivity makes it naturally extremely toxic. Actinium also produces a number of isotopes which have some research applications as well. On the periodic table of elements, you can find actinium by looking for the symbol Ac, and the element's atomic number is 89.

Credit for the discovery of actinium is typically given to Andre Debierne, a French chemist who isolated it from a uranium ore in 1899. Around the same time, radium and polonium were also isolated from uranium ore by Marie and Pierre Curie, showing that uranium held a few well guarded secrets. The name of the element is taken from the Greek aktin, which means “ray,” a reference to its radioactivity.

The primary users of actinium are scientific researchers, who utilize it as a source of neutrons in nuclear research. An isotope of actinium can also be used to bombard bismuth to produce some interesting reactions, and this isotope is also used in nuclear medicine. In addition to being found naturally, the element can also be produced synthetically, as was proved in 2000, when Australian researchers used a linear accelerator to produce a synthetic version.

Like other radioactive elements, actinuim is toxic, and it should be handled with care. Exposure to relatively small amounts can be very dangerous, and it should not be ingested. Researchers who work with the element typically use protective measures and monitor their radiation exposure to avoid levels which could cause radiation sickness or long term damage.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllTheScience researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon274485 — On Jun 11, 2012

What are the uses of actinium? Please answer my question ASAP.

By anon118051 — On Oct 12, 2010

does it have any uses besides Thermoelectric power?

By anon116498 — On Oct 06, 2010

What are its uses?

By anon111576 — On Sep 17, 2010

does this element glow blue?

By anon83339 — On May 10, 2010

it was discovered by Andre Debierne in 1899.

By anon79315 — On Apr 22, 2010

it wasn't found. it was discovered.

By anon44911 — On Sep 11, 2009

who found the element actinium?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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