Actinium

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Actinium (play /ækˈtɪniəm/ ak-TIN-nee-əm) is a radioactive chemical element with the symbol Ac and atomic number 89, which was discovered in 1899. It was the first non-primordial radioactive element to be isolated. Polonium, radium and radon were observed before actinium, but they were not isolated until 1902. Actinium gave the name to the actinide series, a group of 15 similar elements between actinium and lawrencium in the periodic table.

Actinium is a soft, silvery-white radioactive metal. It reacts rapidly with oxygen and moisture in air forming a white coating of actinium oxide that prevents further oxidation. As most lanthanides and actinides, actinium assumes oxidation state +3 in nearly all its chemical compounds. Actinium is found only in traces in uranium ores as 227Ac isotope, which decays with a half-life of 21.773 years, predominantly emitting beta particles. One tonne of uranium ore contains about 0.2 milligrams of actinium. The close similarity of physical and chemical properties of actinium and lanthanum makes separation of actinium from the ore impractical. Instead, the element is prepared, in milligram amounts, by the neutron irradiation of 226Ra in a nuclear reactor. Owing to its scarcity, high price and radioactivity, actinium currently has no significant industrial use. Its current applications include a neutron source and an agent for radiation therapy targeting cancer cells in the body.

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