Polonium: the essentials

Polonium has more isotopes than any other element, all of which are radioactive. Polonium dissolves readily in dilute acids, but is only slightly soluble in alkalis.

Weight for weight it is about 2.5 x 1011 times as toxic as hydrocyanic acid (HCN). Polonium has been found in tobacco as a contaminant and in uranium ores.

Table: basic information about and classifications of polonium.

Polonium: historical information

Polonium was discovered by Marie Curie at 1898 in France. Origin of name: named after "Poland" (birthplace of Marie Curie).

Polonium was the first element discovered by Marie Sklodowska Curie in 1898, while seeking the cause of radioactivity of pitchblende from Joachimsthal, Bohemia. It required several tonnes of pitchblende to produce very small amounts of polonium.

Polonium: physical properties

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Polonium: orbital properties

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Isolation: polonium is radioactive and excessivley rare in nature. It is made in very small qunatities through a nuclear reaction of bismuth. Neutron irradiation of 209bismuth (atomic number 83) gives 210polonium (atomic number 84).

209Bi + 1n → 210Po + e-

Metallic polonium can be fractionally distilled from the bismuth or electrodeposited onto a metal surface such as silver.

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polonium atomic number