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Appearance of radium

  1. Dec 4, 2009 #1
    What does radium actually look like? Oddly enough, I couldn't find a single picture of radium on google. The reason I ask is because we were doing some experiments with a 20 year old Radium-226 source at school today and when I came home, I found a number of tiny, black, sand-like grains on my hands. I can't imagine this could actually be radium, as the source would have to be leaking for that, but you never know.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2009 #2


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  4. Dec 5, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Elemental radium is an active metal. Radium compounds can look like pretty much anything: what does a carbon compound look like? An oxygen compound?

    Frankly, it sounds like what's on your hands is plain old dirt. You're dealing with microgram quantities - perhaps a milligram at most - of radium for a school-sized source. If you can see the dirt, you are talking about tens or hundreds of milligrams.
  5. Dec 5, 2009 #4
    Does your "dirt" glow in the dark?

    I'm inclined to agree with Vanadium though, unless you got your hands on an unusually powerful source, the total amount of radioactive material inside the source should be less than a grain of sand.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2009
  6. Dec 5, 2009 #5
    Well, the strength of the source was 5 micro Curie (185 kBq). According to another teacher I asked, this would correspond with roughly 5 micrograms of Radium-226. I can't really imagine how much mass that would be, but what I found on my hands was roughly 10-20 tiny specks, maybe a little more. Some others were also using Strontium-90 and Americium-241 of 130 and 179 kBq respectively. I wonder if those would need more mass to achieve the same strength.

    To be honest, I doubt it could be anything other than dirt that the cat left behind on my chair or something, as I had already washed my hands a few times after I got home and I'd changed my clothes, so I would have had to pick it up from my backpack or something, which I hadn't touched anymore, so the cat would have had to touch my backpack and then drag it over to my chair. I know rationally it doesn't make sense, but I guess I am sort of OCD about these things.
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