An Important Discovery

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French physicist Marguerite Perey from the Curie Institute is credited for discovering francium. Perey was analyzing a particulate from the decay of actinium. As it turns out francium is a rate of the decaying process. The existence of the element had been a theory, it was confirmed as a fact in 1939. Perey was given the prestigious honor of naming the element. She named it after the country where it was discovered, France.

What are the basic properties of the francium element?
Symbol of the element: Fr
Atomic number: 87
Atomic mass: 223.0 amu
Melting point: 27.0 degrees Celsius
Boiling point: 677.0 degrees Celsius
Number of protons/ electrons: 87
Number of neutrons: 136
Crystal structure: cubic
Density @ 239 K
Color: unknown

There are 33 known isotopes of francium and that is not even enough to give a percentage value in the universe,sun, meteorites, earth’s crust, oceans or humans.

In nature francium is found in very small amounts in uranium ores. Scientists estimate that there is no more than one ounce of francium in the earths’ crust at any one time. It is rare.

Francium is a radioactive chemical. It is listed among the alkaline earth metals on and periodic table. This is a very unstable element. It has a very short half life, about 20 minutes. With this short half life the only known use for this element now is in research settings.

All elements are based on their physical states either gas, liquid or solid. Francium is a solid. Most of francium is artificially created. It is created by bombarding radium with neutrons or blasting thorium with protons. Francium is toxin. Exposure to the element can cause permanent damage to the body. Most physicists and scientist are careful to wear protective gear.

Research continues in the area of physics. It is used to try and learn more about subatomic particles. The hope  is that someday there could be a francium that can be stabilized enough to be used in nuclear medicine. It would need to be a synthesized version of francium.

There are some who wonder if all the research is worth the cost. In a word, yes. When scientists make discoveries and find out the mysterious of the earth and its’ elements there are many powerful and important uses. When it comes to science what used to be an idea, guess or hypothesis can turn into a cure, a source of power or a deeper understanding of the universe.

More about this author: Trenna Sue Hiler

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