News of the WeekHEAVY ELEMENTS

Fast Chemistry Snares Stray Plutonium Isotope

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Science  18 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5384, pp. 1783
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5384.1783

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Over the past 50 years, researchers have isolated a total of 17 plutonium isotopes, all with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei, but one predicted isotope--plutonium-231--had remained at large. Now at last the search for plutonium-231 is over. At the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston late last month, nuclear chemists reported using some fleet-footed chemistry to tease out plutonium-231's characteristic pattern of radioactive decay amid those of other nuclides.