Actinides - Properties, Uses and Availability

The term actinides are derived from the first element of the series which is actinium. The actinide series are referred with the symbol an. These series consists of a family of 15 elements that range between 89 and 103. The 15 elements that are part of the Actinides series are as follows: Actinium (Ac), Thorium (Th), Protactinium (Pa), Uranium (U), Neptunium (Np), Plutonium (Pu), Americium (Am), Curium (Cm), Berkelium (Bk), Californium (Cf), Einsteinium (Es), Fermium (Fm), Mendelevium (Md), Nobelium (No), and Lawrencium (Lr).

The scientist earlier in the 1940s believed that the heaviest atom is uranium. But due to constant innovation advancements and discoveries element more and more element were found and later added in the series. Together all the numerous elements are called as Actinides.

There are few actinides that are present in nature, whereas some actinide is man-made. Five elements of Actinide that are naturally formed are plutonium, neptunium, thorium, protactinium, and uranium. The actinides were also formed during scientific experiments and discoveries.

Properties of Actinides

All the elements in the actinide series are heavy because of their large atomic mass. The elements belonging to this series has an atomic mass ranging from 227g/mol to 262g/mol. The atomic mass of hydrogen is 1 therefore; one can have a clear idea of comparatively how heavier these elements are. 
One of the most important properties of actinides is there are radioactive in nature. The elements in this series are highly radioactive. Radioactive refers to breaking down of the nucleus into smaller particles. The smaller particles are Alpha particles, Beta particles as well as Gamma Particles. The elements in the Actinide series release a large amount of energy on radioactive decay. The elements of Actinides are used as nuclear reactors and in nuclear weapons. There are different uses of Uranium and Thorium. Some of the elements in the actinides series are also used as smoke detectors. The Actinides are typical metals and they have properties of D block and F block elements. 
There is a general configuration of Actinides which is referred to as [Rn] 5f1-14 6d0-1 7s2

In this equation, Rn refers to the nearest noble gas which is Radium.

F block of the modern periodic table consists of Lanthanides and Actinides.

Similarities between Lanthanides and Actinides:

(n-2)f subshell is used for filling and characterization of all the elements in the Lanthanides and Actinides. The electronic configuration of Lanthanides and Actinides are pretty much similar. Some of the major similarities between these two are listed below:

  • 1. Lanthanides and Actinides have a prominent Oxidation State that +3.

  • 2. (n-2) f orbitals are involved in filling of these elements.

  • 3. The Lanthanides and Actinides are reactive as well as electropositive.

  • 4. As the atomic number of these elements increases the ionic and atomic size decreases.

  • 5. Both Lanthanides and Actinides have considerable magnetic properties.

  • Differences between Lanthanides and Actinides

    4F-orbitals are involved for the filling of Lanthanides, whereas the 5F-orbitals are involved in the filling of Actinides. The energy that binds this atom that are 4F is comparatively less than of actinides which is 5F electrons. The shielding of the 5F electrons is also less when compared to that of 4F electrons. It is very easy to explain the paramagnetic properties of Lanthanides. On the other hand, in the case of Actinides, one cannot easily explain all the paramagnetic properties. Most of the Lanthanides are non-Radioactive except for Promethium. All the elements in the Actinide series are Radioactive in nature. There are several oxocation of the elements in Actinides series whereas there is no oxocation in Lanthanides. The compounds that are formed by Actinides are very basic in nature as oppose to the compounds found by Lanthanides. The lanthanides and actinides are often called inner transition metals. 

    Properties of Actinides:

    The actinides are Metals which are typical in nature. The actinides are soft, shiny, silver in color and have a good density and plasticity. Some of the actinides can also be cut with the help of a simple knife. Thorium has a similar hardness to soft steel and can be heated to roll into sheets or pull in to a wire. The properties of elements in the actinide series are the same as D block. They can lose to multiple electrons and form a variety of ions. Actinium has a crystalline phase and is not radioactive as well as paramagnetic. The actinides are also pyrophoric that is they ignite spontaneously when exposed to the air. The melting point of Actinides does not depend on the number of F electrons. Actinides react very easily because of halogens and chalcogens. Actinides having less number of 5 F electrons are sued for hybridization. Actinides also have a considerable number of valance States. The actinides also react with the boiling water or with the dilute acid to form the hydrogen gas. The elements of the actinide series are ductile as well as malleable. The actinides can be combined positively with the non-metals. 

    Availability of Actinide:

    The two actinide elements are found in abundance in earth's crust they are Thorium and Uranium. One can also find small quantities of Plutonium, Neptunium in Uranium. Some of the elements in the actinide series are synthetic elements. These elements are called synthetic elements, as they are not formed naturally, there as formed due to the decay of some part of a heavier element. The actinide element tarnishes when exposing to air.

    Uses of Actinides: 

    The actinides such as Americium are used in smoke detectors. Thorium is used majorly in Gas mantles. Scientists and researchers use Actinium to carry out scientific research or study. Actinium is used as a gamma source, indicator, and neutron source as well. A large number of actinides are used for the defense operations, nuclear weapons and for the production of energy. Plutonium is used in nuclear reactors and for nuclear bombs as well. Many of the actinide elements are used in the nuclear power plant and also for the production of electronic power. Every actinide is known for its unique atomic number and its different properties as well as characteristics. It is very important to study the chemical and physical properties of actinides to predict its reaction. The actinoids do not have stable isotopes.