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The use of Pitchblend in the 1900s

  1. May 4, 2013 #1
    Hi

    I'm just watching a programme about the life and work of Marie Curie who's just found whopping quantities of radiation in ground up pitchblend. I understand this is now used as a source of uranium, but at the time of her getting hold of sackfuls of it, what was it used for in her day? I'm just interested to know and can't find this information anywhere - did it get used in building or something like that, does anyone know??
     
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  3. May 4, 2013 #2

    SteamKing

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    It wasn't used for anything. It was considered a waste product from silver mines in central Europe. The Austro-Hungarian Empire sent a large quantity of it to the Curies for their experiments in hopes that they might find a use for it.
     
  4. May 4, 2013 #3
    In the 1800s it was used to colour glass and ceramics.
     
  5. May 4, 2013 #4
    Ah, righty ho - very interesting, thank you!
     
  6. May 7, 2013 #5

    SteamKing

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    That was probably from uranium which was separated out of the pitchblende. Whatever use PB might have had did not come close to absorbing the supply, which was why the Austro-Hungarians supplied the Curies: they were hoping that additional uses could be found for this stuff which was clogging up silver mines.
     
  7. May 7, 2013 #6
    Thank you SteamKing, most interesting. I wonder what led the Curies to pick upon pitchblend as the substance they would investigate - ok, it was clogging up mines there was so much of it and a plentiful supply of whatever they wanted to text was clearly an important factor, but still, what would have made them think 'oh yes, pitchblend, that's gonna be full of radioactive material'???
     
  8. May 7, 2013 #7

    Vanadium 50

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  9. May 7, 2013 #8
    Brilliant, thank you!
     
  10. May 7, 2013 #9

    SteamKing

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    Madam Curie had done experiments on pitchblende, which was a known source of uranium, and thought there might be additional unknown radioactive elements contained in this mineral:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie
     
  11. May 7, 2013 #10
    Brilliant thank you for that. I wasn't sure who else had been doing stuff with this substance or how much was generally known about radioactive materials at the time but this makes it clear how the Curie's came to work more with this material. Thank you.
     
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