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LiBePolonium Pictures PageBlack White GrayBCNOFNe
NaMgPolonium Technical DataAlSiPSClAr
KCaPolonium Isotope DataScTiVCrMnFeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr
RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAgCdInSnSbTeIXe
CsBaLaCePrNdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTmYbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTlPbBiPoAtRn
FrRaAcThPaUNpPuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRfDbSgBhHsMtDsRgCnUutUuqUupUuhUusUuo
Polonium     

Polonium

Atomic Weight 209[note]
Density 9.196 g/cm3
Melting Point 254 °C
Boiling Point 962 °C
Full technical data

Radioactive polonium foil is used in antistatic brushes as an electron source. The foil is silver with a thin plating of polonium, and an even thinner plating of gold over that. The gold is what you actually see.

Scroll down to see examples of Polonium.
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Polonium Cheap spinthariscope

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Cheap spinthariscope.
A cheap spinthariscope of unknown origin, it was part of an odd lot of science stuff on eBay.
Source: eBay
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 2 April, 2009
Text Updated: 3 April, 2009
Price: Unknown
Size: 2"
Purity: 0%
Polonium Antique StaticMaster

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Antique StaticMaster.
Another style of old StaticMaster anti-static brush.
Source: eBay seller megaw
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 3 July, 2007
Text Updated: 12 March, 2009
Price: $13
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <.01%
Polonium Antique StaticMaster

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Antique StaticMaster.
Another style of old StaticMaster anti-static brush.
Source: eBay seller lovedock
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 3 July, 2007
Text Updated: 12 March, 2009
Price: $5
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <.01%
Polonium Antique StaticMaster

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Antique StaticMaster.
I don't remember where I got this from, but it's a old StaticMaster that expired in 1962 (you can see the date in the photograph). That means it was made in the late 1950's, since these polonium-based anti-static brushes have a rated life of a couple of years.
Source: Unknown
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 3 July, 2007
Text Updated: 4 July, 2007
Price: Unknown
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <.01%
Polonium Lone Ranger Spinthariscope Ring

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Lone Ranger Spinthariscope Ring.
Amazingly, these rings were given out, for 15 cents and one box top, with KIX cereal in 1947. How times do change. By all accounts they actually did work, but unfortunately the radioactive source used (yes, in a breakfast cereal prize) was polonium-210 with a half-life of only 138 days. So by now they are dead as a doornail, and no longer the slightest bit luminous. At least that's what people say, I haven't actually tried this one.
Spinthariscopes are explained here, in case you're wondering what it means for a bomb-shaped ring to "work".
The red plastic tail fins pull off revealing a tiny glass lens, the screen and source are at the front end of the "bomb".
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 8 May, 2007
Text Updated: 19 May, 2007
Price: $203
Size: 1"
Purity: 20%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Polonium Poster sample

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Poster sample.
This is the foil from one of the antistatic brushes you can see above, removed and photographed separately. It appears in my Photographic Periodic Table Poster. The sample photograph includes text exactly as it appears in the poster, which you are encouraged to buy a copy of.
Periodic Table Poster
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 31 July, 2002
Text Updated: 4 May, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 1"
Purity: 20%
Polonium Antique Antistatic brush

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Antique Antistatic brush.
This is an antique Statismaster brush, long since gone dead radioactively speaking (see above for more about these brushes).
Source: Goantiques
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 February, 2004
Price: $10
Size: 4"
Purity: 0%
Polonium Polish Coin

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Polish Coin.
This extremely beautiful, extremely shiny silver coin was issued by the Polish government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery, by Madam Curie and her husband, of radium and polonium. Poland...Polonium, get it? In terms of technical data, this has got to be one of the most informative coins ever.
Source: eBay seller arturkr
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 20 June, 2003
Price: $27
Size: 1.5"
Purity: 0%
Sample Group: Coins
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Polonium Foil

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Foil.
This is a very thin plating of polonium metal on gold foil, from Greg, who has been improving the quality of some of my element samples. He sells many unusual elements, including this one, on eBay: Check the Source link for more details.
Source: Greg P
Contributor: Greg P
Acquired: 18 April, 2003
Price: Donated
Size: 0.1"
Purity: 99%
Polonium Sample from the Everest Set

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Sample from the Everest Set.
Up until the early 1990's a company in Russia sold a periodic table collection with element samples. At some point their American distributor sold off the remaining stock to a man who is now selling them on eBay. The samples (except gases) weigh about 0.25 grams each, and the whole set comes in a very nice wooden box with a printed periodic table in the lid.

Radioactive elements like this one are represented in this particular set by a non-radioactive dummy powder, which doesn't look anything like the real element. (In this case a sample of the pure element isn't really practical anyway.)

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description and information about how to buy one, or you can see photographs of all the samples from the set displayed on my website in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.

Source: Rob Accurso
Contributor: Rob Accurso
Acquired: 7 February, 2003
Text Updated: 18 January, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: 0%
Polonium Sample from the RGB Set

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Sample from the RGB Set.
The Red Green and Blue company in England sells a very nice element collection in several versions. Max Whitby, the director of the company, very kindly donated a complete set to the periodic table table.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description or the company's website which includes many photographs and pricing details. I have two photographs of each sample from the set: One taken by me and one from the company. You can see photographs of all the samples displayed in a periodic table format: my pictures or their pictures. Or you can see both side-by-side with bigger pictures in numerical order.

The picture on the left was taken by me. Here is the company's version (there is some variation between sets, so the pictures sometimes show different variations of the samples):


Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 25 January, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: 20%
Polonium Antistatic brush

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Antistatic brush.
These brushes, which you can still buy today (2002) are made for brushing static charge off of photographic negatives. The radiation from the polonium element (which must be replaced every year or so because the half life is only 138 days) ionizes the air around the brush, making it conductive and carrying away the static charge.
This particular brush has an interesting history. Today (the date given below) I spent the afternoon at an old abandoned hospital complex tearing lead sheeting out of the former x-ray room (with, of course, the full permission of the owner, a developer who is going to demolish the building shortly). Ed Pegg, Jim, and I mined about 3/4 of a ton of lead in two and a half hours. It was hot, so we had to take breaks which consisted of wandering around this very large and quite eerie complex, bumping into things like stacks of old medical records and sharps containers with their contents of syringes and needles spilled out on the floor.
Near the CAT scan machine, which was still there, this brush was just lying on the table. I'd been intending to buy a new one exactly like it when I got around to it, but this is much better. Except for the fact that, as you can see in the picture, it is due to be replaced in 1984, and therefore has essentially no actual polonium left in it. That's the problem with these silly radioactives: They just keep evaporating on you.
Later, while I was in Boston to receive the Ig Nobel Prize for the wooden periodic table, I purchased a brand new brush with a full charge of polonium. That's why this sample is classified as having about 20% actual polonium: It's an average figure assuming I buy a new one every few years (they are fairly cheap).
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 31 July, 2002
Price: Donated
Size: 1"
Purity: 20%
Polonium Radioactive spark plugs

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Radioactive spark plugs.
For some crazy reason, in the 1950's Firestone made automotive spark plugs containing radioactive polonium. Presumably the idea was that the ionizing radiation would allow the spark to travel more easily, making for better ignition. I think it's a fairly far-fetched idea.
According to this excellent book, they contain(ed) Polonium-210, with a half-life of only 138 days (the book has further information on pages 79 and 100 if you're interested). Whatever radioactivity there was in 1950 is long gone now! Though, my Geiger counter does reveal a very slight increase over background, maybe 300cpm, around the ceramic portion of the plug, none around the electrode tip. My guess is there is some totally unrelated radioactive contamination in the ceramic material or the glaze.
Amusingly, the Geiger counter I used to test them is a very nice one I got (for $40) at the closing out auction of a local Bridgestone/Firestone tire plant (it's the one that made the tires that practically put Firestone out of business in 2001). So I'm using equipment from a failed Firestone plant to test a failed Firestone product from 50 years ago!
This, incidentally, is the 100th sample installed in the table.
One spark plug is in the table, and the box containing the remaining eleven I have are in the Hot Box, because even though no actual radioactivity remains, the box proudly proclaims that they are radioactive (I guess people really went for that kind of thing in the '50s).
Here's an interesting article about different elements in spark plugs.
Source: eBay seller glenben1
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 17 July, 2002
Text Updated: 18 January, 2009
Price: $31
Size: 3"
Purity: 0%
Sample Group: Spark Plugs
Polonium Photo Card Deck of the Elements

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Photo Card Deck of the Elements.
In late 2006 I published a photo periodic table and it's been selling well enough to encourage me to make new products. This one is a particularly neat one: A complete card deck of the elements with one big five-inch (12.7cm) square card for every element. If you like this site and all the pictures on it, you'll love this card deck. And of course if you're wondering what pays for all the pictures and the internet bandwidth to let you look at them, the answer is people buying my posters and cards decks. Hint hint.
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 19 November, 2008
Text Updated: 21 November, 2008
Price: $35
Size: 5"
Composition: HHeLiBeBCNOFNeNaMg AlSiPSClArKCaScTiVCrMn FeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAg CdInSnSbTeIXeCsBaLaCePr NdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTm YbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTl PbBiPoAtRnFrRaAcThPaUNp PuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRf DbSgBhHsMtDsRgUubUutUuq UupUuhUusUuo
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!