Where Is Radium Found in the World?
Radium is found in the ore of uranium, and it was first found in Bohemia, some can also be found in the Carnotite sands of Colorado, although richer supplies exist in regions of Zaire, Africa and the Great Bear Lake region of Canada. Radium is present in all uranium metals, and can be extracted from the waste products of uranium processing.
Two French scientists working in Paris discovered radium in 1890. Professor Pierre Curie and his wife Marie Sklodowska-Curie found this rare and precious element in a mineral called pitchblende, a black substance which also contains uranium. During a period of four years they treated six tons of this material and obtained a teaspoonful of a pure radioactive substance which they called radium.
They found that radium had many very unusual properties. It affected ordinary photographic plates, it made certain substances glow when placed in the dark, and it quickly killed of tiny dangerous organisms when placed near them. Radium gives off powerful radioactive waves—the well-known gamma rays. These are used in the treatment of various diseases, especially in the case of cancer where “deep ray” treatment is given.
Pierre and Marie Sklodowska-Curie were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work. Professor Curie was killed in a motor accident in 1906, but Marie Sklodowska-Curie continued the work they had started together and in 1911 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Radium was discovered by Curies on 21 December 1898, in a uraninite (pitchblende) sample. While studying the mineral earlier, the Curies removed uranium from it and found that the remaining material was still radioactive. They separated out an element similar to bismuth from pitchblende in July 1898 that turned out to be polonium. They then separated out a radioactive mixture consisting mostly of two components: compounds of barium, which gave a brilliant green flame color, and unknown radioactive compounds which gave carmine spectral lines that had never been documented before.
The Curies found the radioactive compounds to be very similar to the barium compounds, except that they were more insoluble. This made it possible for the Curies to separate out the radioactive compounds and discover a new element in them. The Curies announced their discovery to the French Academy of Sciences on 26 December 1898.
In 1910, radium was isolated as a pure metal by Marie Curie and André-Louis Debierne through the electrolysis of a pure radium chloride (RaCl2) solution using a mercury cathode, producing a radium–mercury amalgam. This amalgam was then heated in an atmosphere of hydrogen gas to remove the mercury, leaving pure radium metal. The same year, E. Eoler isolated radium by thermal decomposition of its azide, Ra (N3)2. Radium metal was first industrially produced in the beginning of the 20th century by Biraco, a subsidiary company of Union Minière du Haut Katanga (UMHK) in its Olen plant in Belgium.
The common historical unit for radioactivity, the curie, is based on the radioactivity of 226Ra. The naming of radium dates to about 1899, from the French word radium, formed in Modern Latin from radius (ray): this was in recognition of radium’s power of emitting energy in the form of rays.
The rare, brilliant white, luminescent, highly radioactive metallic element found in very small amounts in uranium ores, having 13 isotopes with mass numbers between 213 and 230, of which radium 226 with a half-life of 1,622 years is the most common.
Radium is classified as an “Alkaline Earth Metals” which are located in Group 2 elements of the Periodic Table. An Element classified as an Alkaline Earth Metals are found in the Earth’s crust, but not in the elemental form as they are so reactive. Instead, they are widely distributed in rock structures.