What is Uranium and what are its uses? Research Paper on an Element
Uranium is a silvery-white element possessing a very radioactive and oxidizing character. Uranium retains a density of 19.07 grams per cubic centimeter and a melting point of roughly 1,132 degrees centigrade. With a boiling point of approximately 3,818 degrees Celsius uranium is not an easy element to get to a melting or boiling point. The Periodic Table says that uranium has 92 protons and 146 neutrons thereby acquiring a atomic weight of 238 atomic mass units. Uranium burns readily in air at 150 to 175 degrees centigrade and at 1,000 degrees Celsius uranium combines with nitrogen to form a yellow nitride.
Uranium is found in such ores as pitchblende and carnotite. In the crust of the Earth uranium is found at about 2 parts per million. In other words, for every half million tons of nature one digs up, they can expect to find one ton of uranium. To mine this element, miners will break up and mix pitchblende with sulfuric and nitric acids. This then breaks the uranium into uranyl sulfate and with the addition of heat, uranium is then precipitated as sodium diuranate and collected.
Humans today use uranium to produce nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. While producing electrical energy, power plants consume close to 40 million tons of coal per month, while the same output could be obtained by using only 15 pounds of uranium per month!
*Uranium is a very heavy (dense) metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy.
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*It occurs in most rocks in concentrations of 2 to 4 parts per million and is as common in the earth’s crust as tin, tungsten and molybdenum. It occurs in seawater, and could be recovered from the oceans if prices rose significantly.
*It was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, in the mineral called pitchblende. It was named after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered eight years earlier.
*Uranium was apparently formed in super novae about 6.6 billion years ago. While it is not common in the solar system, today its radioactive decay provides the main source of heat inside the earth, causing convection and continental drift.
*The high density of uranium means that it also finds uses in the keels of yachts and as counterweights for aircraft control surfaces (rudders and elevators), as well as for radiation shielding.
*Its melting point is 1132°C. The chemical symbol for uranium is U.