Radium's Appearance: Can You See It?

  • Thread starter Shukie
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In summary, the 20 year old Radium-226 source at school produced black, sand-like grains on the hands of the experimenters. The grains were probably less than a grain of sand and would have produced a negligible amount of radiation if used in an actual experiment.
  • #1
Shukie
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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.
 
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  • #3
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.
 
  • #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.
 
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  • #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.
 

Related to Radium's Appearance: Can You See It?

1. What color is radium?

Radium is a silvery-white metal that tarnishes quickly in air, giving it a dull gray appearance.

2. Can you see radium with the naked eye?

Yes, radium can be seen with the naked eye, but only under certain conditions. In its pure form, it emits a faint blue glow in the dark, which is known as its "radioluminescence." However, this glow is very dim and can only be seen in complete darkness.

3. Does radium have a distinct smell or odor?

No, radium does not have a distinct smell or odor. It is a metal and therefore does not have any scent.

4. What other physical properties can you observe in radium?

Radium is a highly radioactive element, and its radioactivity can be observed through a Geiger counter. It also has a high melting point of 700°C and is extremely dense, with a specific gravity of 5.5.

5. How does the appearance of radium change over time?

Radium has a half-life of 1,600 years, meaning it decays at a slow rate. As it decays, it transforms into other elements, such as radon gas, which has a different appearance. Therefore, the appearance of radium will change over time as it undergoes radioactive decay.

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