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The simplest form of matter.

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Will that be Cash or Credit?

Will that be Cash or Credit?

Credit: US Department of Energy
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Californium.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The image above is of a sample of californium, element 98. This element is very rare – the picture shows a disk that is approximately 0.1 mm in diameter. Californium is so rare that less than 10 grams have been produced so far.

Amazing But True!

  • Scientific research can get expensive. Chemicals cost a lot, and equipment can really break the budget. You need millions of dollars to assemble a cyclotron, but you can produce different materials after you have the apparatus.
  • Credit: Adam Foster
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twosevenoneonenineeightthreesevenatenzerosix/7848902570/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    The control room for a cyclotron in France [Figure2]


  • If you want to work with synthetic radioisotopes (not the ones that occur naturally), you either have to make them yourself or buy them from another lab (usually Oak Ridge in Tennessee).
  • That’s the problem with doing research on the element californium. The cost of one gram has been quoted as anywhere from $27 million to $68 million, depending on your source of information. 
  • Watch the video at the link below to see a student project on the properties of californium: 


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With the links below, learn more about californium. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How was californium originally made?
  2. How is californium produced today?
  3. How many atoms of californium were produced in the original experiments?
  4. What is californium used for?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: US Department of Energy; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Californium.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Adam Foster; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twosevenoneonenineeightthreesevenatenzerosix/7848902570/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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