/plooh toh"nee euhm/, n. Chem., Physics.
a transuranic element with a fissile isotope of mass number 239 (plutonium 239) that can be produced from non-fissile uranium 238, as in a breeder reactor. Symbol: Pu; at. no.: 94.
[1940-45; < Gk Ploúton PLUTO + -IUM]

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Radioactive (see radioactivity) metallic chemical element, chemical symbol Pu, atomic number 94.

A member of the actinide series of transition elements, it is the most important transuranium element because of its use in certain types of nuclear reactors (see nuclear power) and in nuclear weapons. It is found in nature only in traces produced by natural neutron irradiation in uranium ores. It is produced artificially by neutron irradiation of uranium-238. Plutonium is a silvery metal that tarnishes in air; it is warm because of energy released in alpha decay. Its isotopes, all radioactive, are highly toxic radiological poisons (see radiation injury) because they give off alpha particles and are specifically absorbed by bone marrow.

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 radioactive chemical element of the actinoid series of the periodic table, atomic number 94. It is the most important transuranium element because of its use as fuel in certain types of nuclear reactors and as an ingredient in nuclear weapons. Plutonium, warm because of energy released in alpha decay, is a silvery metal that takes on a yellow tarnish in air. The element was first detected (1941) as the isotope plutonium-238 by Glenn T. Seaborg (Seaborg, Glenn T.), Joseph W. Kennedy, and Arthur C. Wahl, who produced it by deuteron bombardment of uranium-238 in the 60-inch cyclotron at Berkeley, California. Traces of plutonium have subsequently been found in uranium ores, where it is not primeval but naturally produced by neutron irradiation.

      All plutonium isotopes are radioactive. The most important is plutonium-239 because it is fissionable, has a relatively long half-life (24,360 years), and can be readily produced in large quantities in breeder reactors by neutron irradiation of plentiful but nonfissile uranium-238. critical mass (the amount that will spontaneously explode when brought together) must be considered when handling quantities in excess of 300 grams (2/3 lb). The critical mass of plutonium-239 is only about one-third that of uranium-235.

      Plutonium and all elements of higher atomic number are radiological poisons because of their high rate of alpha emission and their specific absorption in bone marrow. The maximum amount of plutonium-239 that can be indefinitely maintained in an adult without significant injury is 0.008 microcuries (equal to 0.13 micrograms). Longer-lived isotopes plutonium-242 and plutonium-244 are valuable in chemical and metallurgical research. Plutonium-238 can be manufactured to harness its heat of radioactive decay to operate thermoelectric and thermionic devices that are small and lightweight but long-lived (the half-life of plutonium-238 is 86 years).

      Plutonium exhibits six forms differing in crystal structure and density (allotropes); the alpha form exists at room temperatures. It has the highest electrical resistivity of any metallic element (145 microhm-centimetres). Chemically reactive, it dissolves in acids and can exist in four oxidation states as ions of characteristic colour in aqueous solution: Pu3+, blue-lavender; Pu4+, yellow-brown; PuO2+, pink (?); PuO22+, pink-orange. Very many compounds of plutonium have been prepared, often starting from the dioxide (PuO2), the first compound of any synthetic element to be separated in pure form and in weighable amounts (1942).

atomic number
stablest isotope
melting point
639.5 °C (1,183.1 °F)
boiling point
3,235 °C (5,855 °F)
specific gravity (alpha)
19.84 (25 °C)
oxidation states
+3, +4, +5, +6
electronic config.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • PLUTONIUM — Élément chimique artificiel de numéro atomique 94, le plutonium a pour symbole chimique Pu. Par analogie avec les éléments uranium et neptunium le précédant immédiatement dans la classification périodique, il doit son nom à la planète Pluton… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Plutonium — Plutonium: Der Name des radioaktiven chemischen Elements wurde im 20. Jh. aus gleichbed. engl. plutonium übernommen, einer gelehrten Bildung des amerikanischen Chemikers G. Th. Seaborg und seiner Mitarbeiter zum Planetennamen Pluto. Der Name… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

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  • plutonium — (n.) 1942, from PLUTO (Cf. Pluto), the planet, + element ending ium. Discovered at University of California, Berkeley, in 1941, the element named on suggestion of Seaborg and Wahl because it follows NEPTUNIUM (Cf. neptunium) in the periodic table …   Etymology dictionary

  • plutonium — ☆ plutonium [plo͞o tō′nē əm ] n. [ModL, after PLUTO (planet) + IUM: so named (1942) by G. T. SEABORG Glenn T(heodore), E. M. MCMILLAN Edwin Mattison, A. C. Wahl (1917 ), & J. W. Kennedy (1916 57), U.S. physicists who isolated it (1940), because… …   English World dictionary

  • Plutonĭum [1] — Plutonĭum, eine Höhle am Avernersee in Campanien,[220] welche als der Eingang zum Reiche Plutons betrachtet wurde. Auch in Magnesia, Myus, Thymbria u. Acharaka waren Plutonien …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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  • PLUTONIUM — locus Phrygiae magnae, apud Hierapolim, ubi spiracula Ditis, Strab …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

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