In the middle ages, legends of a philosopher’s stone that could turn lead into gold sparked the imaginations of the alchemist at the time. It wasn’t until the discovery of nuclear fusion that we made synthetic gold by blasting a proton out of a mercury atom. The result was a costly and radioactive version of gold. Manly different synthetic particles have been made in labs since the first atomic experiments. Most elements that are made in a lab only have a half life of a few seconds, but some of them are extremely useful.
- Americium: it was first synthesized in 1944 during the first atomic test. Chances are, there’s some Americium in the smoke detectors around our houses. This is because the Alpha particles that radiates from Americium will causes the carbon particles to stick to the negative and positively charged pads in the smoke chamber. It slows the electric current and trips the alarm. Americium is radioactive but the alpha particles it emits can be shielded by skin. The worst it will do is kill some skin cells.
- Technetium: More specifically Technetium 99. It was the first element to be synthesized in a lab and it was discovered in by two Sicilian scientists by the name of Carlo Pierre and Emilio Segre in 1937. Its main uses are in the medical field. When injected into a patient, Technetium 99 gives out a small dose of gamma radiation. It does it in a short enough amount of time to prevent any damage to living tissue. They use it to spot bone marrow cancer and to monitor blood flow.
- Promethium: It’s a radioactive isotope mainly synthesized in labs but can be found in the earth’s crust. It’s used mainly due to the fact it gives off beta radiation. Promethium is used in the radioactive batteries for guided missiles, pace makers, and used as a light source. The beta radiation is not very energetic and can easily be shielded making Promethium mostly safe.
- Tritium: Mostly used for the fact that it gives off a green glow. Like Promethium, it too gives off beta radiation. Tritium is a rare form of hydrogen with one proton and two neutrons it’s synthesized as a byproduct from nuclear fission. The element is commonly used in gun sights, watches, and exit signs for its self-powered lighting. Tritium is more dangerous that Promethium due to its gaseous state. If inhaled, Tritium could prove lethal.
Most other Synthesized elements don’t have any practical uses other than to create heavier and more unstable elements. Once elements go past atomic number 94, they have shorter and shorter half-lives. They only serve to be observed at this point. We may not have found a philosopher stone, but the alchemists of the middle ages where on the right path and they’re drive gave way to chemist and eventually nuclear chemist that achieved their goals. What was once called transmutation is achievable with nuclear fission and particle accelerators.
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