Radium: the essentials

Pure metallic radium is brilliant white when freshly prepared, but blackens on exposure to air, probably due to formation of the nitride. It exhibits luminescence, as do its salts; it decomposes in water and is somewhat more volatile than barium. Radium imparts a carmine red colour to a flame.

Radium emits α, β, and γ rays and when mixed with beryllium produces neutrons. Inhalation, injection, or body exposure to radium can cause cancer and other body disorders. alkaline earth metal, white but tarnishes black upon exposure to air, luminesces, decomposes in water, emits radioactive radon gas, disintegrated radioactively until it reaches stable lead, radiological hazard, α, β, and γ emitter, exposure to radium can cause cancer and other body disorders. Radium is over a million times more radioactive than the same mass of uranium.

Table: basic information about and classifications of radium.

Radium: historical information

Radium was discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie at 1898 in France. Origin of name: from the Latin word "radius" meaning "ray".

Radium was discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie in pitchblende (or uraninite) from North Bohemia. The element was isolated in 1911 by Mme. Curie and Debierne by the electrolysis of a solution of pure radium chloride, employing a mercury cathode. On distillation in an atmosphere of hydrogen this amalgam yielded the pure metal.

Radium: physical properties

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Radium: orbital properties

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Isolation: all isotopes of radium are radioactive and there is only ever any need to make radium metal on very small scales for research purposes. Radium is extremely scarce but found in uranium ores such as pitchblende at slightly more than 1g in 10 tonnes of ore. It may be made on very small scale by the electrolysis of molten radium chloride, RaCl2. This was first done using a mercury cathode, which gave radium amalgam. The metal was obtained by distillation away from the amalgam.

cathode: Ra2+(l) + 2e- → Ra

anode: Cl-(l) → 1/2Cl2 (g) + e-

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radium atomic number