UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What do you get when you mix lithium with astatine? Is it used commonly? What for? Thank you.
Question Date: 2007-11-15
Answer 1:

Astatine (Greek for "unstable") is a very rare radioactive element that occurs during the radioactive decay of uranium. As it's name suggests, astatine is not a very stable atom, quickly radioactively decaying into other, smaller atoms. Astatine was only discovered in 1940, and only about 30 grams (about a teaspoon worth) of it are thought to exist on the entire earth at any one time; and the half-life of the most stable form of Astatine is about 8 hours.

However, scientists have performed experiments on the very tiny amounts of astatine they can produce by bombarding bismuth with high-energy alpha particles. These short-lived observations tell us that Astatine reacts similarly to Iodine, another Halogen.

Lithium will form a compound with Iodine, Lithium iodide, so it is likely that lithium and astatine would similarly combine-- but such a molecule would last only minutes or hours before breaking apart, and current methods could produce only micrograms of the molecule at a time. If the ability to make astatine became more routine, it might be useful in applications like radiation therapy for cancer -iodine localizes to certain parts of the body, and astatine might as well. If those areas have cancer, the radioactivity from the astatine could damage the cancer present.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use