Curium: the essentials

Curium is a hard, brittle, radioactive silvery metal. It does not occur in nature and must be made in a nuclear reactor by neutron capture reactions from plutonium and americium isotopes. It tarnishes slowly in dry air at room temperature. Curium was first produced in 1944 at the University of California, Berkeley in the USA in a cyclotron by bombarding plutonium-239 (239Pu) with α-particles. It was isolated in visible quantities as the hydroxide, Cm(OH)3, in 1947.

Most compounds of Cm(III) are faintly yellow. If curium enters the body it accumulates in the bones, and is therefore very toxic as its radiation destroys the red-cell forming mechanism. Curium is a radioactive rare earth metal. The most stable isotope is 247Cm which has a half-life of 16 million years. Curium is probably present in uranium ores. It has a few specialised uses but only a few of its compounds are known.

Table: basic information about and classifications of curium.

Curium: historical information

Curium was discovered by Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, Albert Ghiorso at 1944 in USA. Origin of name: named after Pierre and Marie "Curie".

Curium was identified by Seaborg and others in 1944 as a result of helium ion bombardment of the plutonium isotope 239Pu. Three years later visible amounts of the hydroxide were isolated by Werner and Perlman. In 1951, the same workers prepared curium in its elemental form for the first time.

Curium: physical properties

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Curium: orbital properties

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Isolation: coming soon!

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