americium (ămərĭˈshēəm) [key], artificially produced radioactive chemical element; symbol Am; at. no. 95; mass no. of most stable isotope 243; m.p. about 1,175°C; b.p. about 2,600°C; sp. gr. 13.67 at 20°C; valence +2, +3, +4, +5, or +6. Americium is a silver-white metal thought to have either a loose-packed cubic or a close-packed double hexagonal crystalline structure. The pure metal has been prepared by reduction of americium trifluoride with barium vapor at about 1,100°C. It tarnishes slowly in dry air.
All 16 known isotopes are radioactive. Americium-243, the most stable isotope, has a half-life of more than 7,300 years. Americium-241, which has a half-life of about 430 years, is more often used in chemical investigations, since it is easily prepared in a fairly pure form; it is also used in industrial measuring devices, radiology, and household smoke detectors.
The fourth transuranium elementto be synthesized, americium is a member of the actinide series in Group 3 of the periodic table. It was discovered in 1944 by Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, Leon O. Morgan, and Albert Ghiorso, who bombarded plutonium-239 with neutrons to form plutonium-241, which decays to form americium-241.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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