Actinium

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What is Actinium?

Actinium is the first and foremost element of the actinide series. The complete 36 known isotopes of actinium are radioactive. Ac 227 and 228 are the naturally occurring isotopes, having a half-life of 21.77 years and 6.13 hours, respectively, which is 150 times more radioactive than radium. It is also hazardous to health. If it is ingested, it gets deposited into the bones and liver, damaging the cells due to its radioactive decay. The actinium electron configuration is given as [Rn] 6d1 7s2.

Let us know some important points about Actinium:

  • Actinium is a radioactive element, having atomic number 89 on the periodic table.

  • The physical appearance of actinium is metallic silver.

  • We can find actinium in nature in traces of most of the Uranium ores.

  • Because of its intense radioactivity, this specific metal glows blue in the dark.

  • Also, it shares similar properties compared to lanthanum.


Actinium in the Environment

Actinium, also the ac element, is only found in traces in the uranium ores as 227-Ac, an α, and β emitter having a half-life of 21.773 years. One ton of uranium ore consists of about a tenth of a gram of actinium. We can find this element in trace amounts in uranium ore, but more commonly, it is prepared in the milligram amounts using neutron irradiation of 226-Ra, present in a nuclear reactor. The actinium metal has been prepared by reducing actinium fluoride with lithium vapor at around 1100 - 1300-degrees.

Actinium, an ac element that occurs naturally, is composed of 1 radioactive isotope, with 227-Ac being the most abundant (100 percent natural abundance). 225-Ac radioisotopes have been characterized with a half-life of 10 days, 27 with the very stable being 227-Ac, having a half-life of 21.773 years, and 226-Ac with a half-life of 29.37 hours. All the remaining radioactive isotopes are half-life's below 10 hours, and the majority of isotopes have half-lives of less than 1 minute. Also, the actinium elements have 2 meta states.

Purified actinium-227 comes into an equilibrium state with its decay products at the end of 185 days and then decays based on its 21.773-year half-life.

The actinium isotopes range in atomic weight from 206 AMU (the 206-actinium) to 234 AMU (the 234-actinium).


Properties of Actinium

This radioactive element, actinium, reacts with oxygen to produce a white coating like substance known as actinium oxide. Therefore, the prevention of metal from getting oxidized further, the actinium ions exhibit colorless when added in a solution, which is one of the strongest radioactive elements.


Effects of Actinium

Environmental Effects of Actinium

The nuclear technology development has been accompanied by gross and minute releases of radioactivity and the soil, the atmosphere, seas, water table, and the oceans, showing up worldwide in vegetable, animal, and inert matter. Radiation will cross-species and concentrates via the food chain, subjecting the other humans and animals to its damaging effects.

Actinium-227 is an extremely radioactive element. Radioactivity even damages the gene pool for humans and all the living creatures, causing immune system damage, leukemia or other cancers, miscarriages, stillbirths, fertility problems, and deformities. Moreover, the genetic damage from radiation exposure is cumulative over generations and lifetimes.

Health Effects of Actinium

As we know. Actinium-227 is an extremely radioactive element, and in terms of its potential for the health effects of radiation-induced, actinium-227 is nearly as dangerous as plutonium. Even small amounts of ingesting actinium-227 would represent a dangerous health hazard.

The greatest threat of radioactivity to our lives, as we all know that it is damage to the pool of genes, the genetic make-up of every living species. The damage (genetic damage) from radiation exposure is cumulative over generations and lifetimes.

Also, low-dose exposure of actinium is carcinogenic after extended exposure. The present generation, the one in the uterus, and all that follow can suffer leukemia and other cancers, miscarriages, immune system damage, stillbirths, fertility problems, and deformities. 

While most of these health problems are on the rise, any individuals cannot prove either increase in "background" radiation or on specific exposure as the cause. Only the epidemiological evidence is acceptable scientifically to impute cause. Perhaps, the most extreme outcome over time would be only the wholesale cessation of the ability to reproduce. Radiation is a well-known cause of sterility.


Uses of Actinium

Let us go through some important uses of the actinium, as given below:

It is naturally found in the uranium ores and rarely occurs as a free element in the earth's crust. Also, it is produced more frequently in the lab.

  • It is an important source of alpha rays.

  • Ac-225 is used in the medical field as an agent for radiation therapy.

  • It has an immense value as a neutron source because it is one fifty times more radioactive than that of radium.

  • Ac does not find to be much significant use in any of the industrial applications.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why does Actinium Glow?

Ans. Actinium is a silvery-white, soft, radioactive, metallic element and mainly a radioactive element that emit radiations. The estimated shear modulus of actinium is the same as that of lead. Due to its strong radioactivity, the actinium element glows in the dark with a pale blue light, originating from the surrounding air, ionized by the emitted energetic particles.

Since it is a member of the radioactive decay series, its byproducts emit various radiations Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Its different isotopes have various half-lives. The Ac-227 is the most common and is found in nature only due to the U and Th. It always glows due to these radiations. 

2. What are Actinoids?

Ans. In the periodic table, actinoids are a consecutive series of 15 elements starting from actinium to lawrencium. All of the actinides are the f-block elements, except lawrencium or actinium, which do not have any f electrons. They all have enormous ionic and atomic radii and exhibit unusual physical properties of a large range.

Actinoids are also significant largely due to their radioactive nature. Although many members of the group occur naturally, most of them are human-made. They have been used in atomic weapons to make explosive power and are mostly employed in nuclear plants for electrical power production.