Chemistry - Plutonium


  • Plutonium is basically an actinide metal and it appears like silvery-gray.

  • The element, which atomic number is ranging between 89 and 103, is known as actinide element.

  • The symbol of plutonium is ‘Pu’ and atomic number is ‘94.’

  • Plutonium normally possesses six allotropes.

  • Plutonium is named after ‘Pluto.’

  • Plutonium was first discovered in 1940, by a group of scientists namely Glenn T. Seaborg, Joseph W. Kennedy, Edwin M. McMillan and Arthur C. Wahl.

Salient Features of Plutonium

  • Plutonium is a radioactive chemical element.

  • Plutonium when exposed to air, it gets tarnished and when it oxidized, it forms a dull coating.

  • Plutonium reacts with many elements including halogens, nitrogen, carbon, silicon, and hydrogen.

  • Because of fission process, neutrons get released and convert uranium-238 nuclei into plutonium-239.

  • Plutonium-239 and plutonium-241 both are fissile, and hence, they can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. It is very well applicable in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.

  • The melting point of plutonium is 640 0C and its boiling point is 3,228 0C.

  • The release of helium nucleus (a high-energy) is the most common form of radioactive decay for the plutonium.

Occurrence of Plutonium

  • The plutonium naturally found only in trace amounts within the uranium deposits.

  • Plutonium is also extracted by burning the uranium (while developing nuclear energy).

Alloys of Plutonium

  • Following are the major alloys of plutonium −

    • Plutonium–gallium is one of the important alloys of plutonium as well as of gallium.

    • Plutonium–gallium is used in the nuclear weapon pits.

    • Plutonium–gallium has the property of very low thermal expansion.

  • Some other alloys of plutonium are −

    • Plutonium–aluminum

    • Plutonium–gallium–cobalt

    • Plutonium–zirconium

    • Plutonium–cerium

    • Plutonium–uranium

    • Plutonium–uranium–titanium

    • Thorium–uranium–plutonium

Compounds of Plutonium

  • Plutonium (IV) oxide - PuO2

  • Plutonium (III) chloride - PuCl3

  • Plutonium tetrafluoride - PuF4

Uses of Plutonium

  • The isotope plutonium-239 is one of the significant elements in developing the nuclear weapons.

  • Plutonium is used as a fuel in the nuclear power plants.