Americium

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Americium (play /ˌæməˈrɪsiəm/ AM-ə-RIS-ee-əm) is a synthetic element that has the symbol Am and atomic number 95. This transuranic element of the actinide series is located in the periodic table below the lanthanide element europium, and thus by analogy was named after another continent, America.[2]

Americium was first produced in late autumn 1944 by the group of Glenn T. Seaborg at the University of California, Berkeley. Although it is the third element in the transuranic series, it was discovered fourth, after the heavier curium. The discovery was kept secret and only released to the public in November 1945. Most americium is produced by bombarding uranium or plutonium with alpha particles (helium ions) in nuclear reactors – one tonne of spent nuclear fuel contains about 100 grams of americium. It is widely used in commercial ionization chamber smoke detectors, as well as in neutron sources and industrial gauges. Several unusual applications, such as a nuclear battery or fuel for space ships with nuclear propulsion, have been proposed for the isotope 242mAm, but they are as yet hindered by the scarcity and high price of this nuclear isomer.

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