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Uranium and Its Uses

Author: Tyler Vazquez

Editor: Tharindi Jayatilake

Artist: Tiffany Chen

Uranium is the 92nd element located on the Periodic Table of the Elements. With an abundance of about 4 parts per million in the Earth’s crust, it is both a rare and powerful element. As an actinide, it is both synthetically and naturally produced. Let's take a glance into this unique element that has quite possibly changed the world.

Uranium has no stable isotopes. This means that each of its radioisotopes must decay, emitting radiation in order to revert to stability. Uranium often decays via alpha emission, though gamma emission is known as well. Alpha ray emission means that an atom of uranium will release 2 protons and 2 neutrons at any point in time. This alpha particle is quite similar to that of the mass, structure, and function of a helium atom, despite carrying no electrons like that of helium. Two of uranium’s most common radioisotopes include Uranium-235 and Uranium-238, though others, such as Uranium -233, exist. Uranium is theorized to have formed in supernovae and stars throughout the universe about 6.6 billion years ago.