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Last updated date: 24th Feb 2024
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What is Polonium?

It is an element with the chemical symbol Po and atomic number 84 in the periodic table. Polonium is in Group 16 and period 6 in the periodic table of elements.  It is a rare natural element and highly radioactive metal with no stable isotopes, It was discovered in 1898 by Marie Sklodowska Curie and Pierre Curie. It is extremely toxic even in small amounts and is termed as perfect poison.

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Properties of Polonium



Atomic Number


Electronic Configuration

[Xe] 6s²4f¹⁴5d¹⁰6p⁴

Atomic Mass

209 u


9.4 g/cm³

Boiling point


Melting point







p block

Isotopes of Polonium

²⁰⁹Po, ²¹⁰Po

Certain Facts About Polonium

  • Its chemical property is similar to bismuth and tellurium. (Polonium is the heaviest metal of the chalcogens, also known as the "oxygen family.")

  • It has no stable isotopes. (Po-210  has a half-life of only 138 days).

  • It is a radioactive semi-metal found in uranium ores. It is used in some devices to eliminate static electricity in processes such as manufacturing sheet plastic, rolling paper, etc.

  • manufacturing sheet plastics, and spinning synthetic fibers. 

  • It emits alpha-particles after the disintegration.

  • It is classified as a metal because polonium electrical conductivity decreases as its temperature increases.

  • If polonium-210 enters inside the body, through inhalation or swallowing,  the results can be fatal.

  • Tobacco smokers have more polonium-210 content compared to nonsmokers because smoking causes it to accumulates in the lungs.

Did You Know?

Uranium and thorium were the only known radioactive elements before Polish-French physicist, Marie Curie discovered polonium in the year 1898. Curie named polonium after her homeland, Poland. Poland was not an independent country at that time and was ruled by German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian partition. With the hope of naming the element after her native land Madam Curie did so to publicize its lack of independence, Polonium was the first-ever element to be named highlighting a political controversy.

FAQs on Polonium

Question: Write the Uses of Polonium.

Answer: Polonium is used in

  1. Atomic Bomb: The combination of polonium and beryllium, acts as a  bomb's initiator.

  2. Due to its high radioactivity, polonium has commercial applications, It is used as a lightweight heat source for thermoelectric power in satellites and other spacecraft.

  3. Due to alpha emission, 1 gram of polonium can acquire a temperature up to 500°C. Due to this property of Polonium it a useful source of heat for space equipment. ( Concentration of Po-210 in water is measured by  pCi/L, a picocurie is a unit of measure for radioactivity in air and water and picocurie is one million millionth, or a trillionth, of a curie).

Question: How Polonium is Produced?

Answer: Polonium-210 is present in very small amounts in the soil and in the atmosphere but it does not occur naturally in lethal concentrations. It can be manufactured in a nuclear reactor by bombarding the isotope bismuth-209 with a neutron.

Question: Which is More Dangerous, Hydrogen Cyanide or Polonium?

Answer: Both of them are equally toxic, HCN is an acute toxin and will give instant death whereas radioactive isotopes of polonium will kill over a few days or weeks of radiation poisoning.