Uranium is a silvery-white metal with the symbol U and atomic number 92. It is ductile, malleable, dense, and slightly paramagnetic. Uranium has a high atomic mass and it is weakly radioactive as all the isotopes of uranium are very unstable.
Uranium is a poor electrical conductor. The electrical resistivity of uranium is high compared to other metals (copper, silver, gold, aluminum, etc.). The thermal conductivity of uranium is low as well.
Does Uranium have Conductivity?
Uranium is a radioactive chemical element that occurs naturally. The first thing that comes to our mind when we hear the word ‘Uranium’ is nuclear weapons. The reason for the huge popularity of uranium is its nuclear-related uses. It is a very expensive and highly toxic metal.
Uranium-235 is the only naturally occurring fissile isotope. Therefore, it is widely used in nuclear power plants and weapons. The nuclear bomb that was detonated over Hiroshima was based on uranium fission.
Metallic uranium shows poor electrical and thermal conductivity. It has a higher resistivity. At 20 °C the electrical resistivity of uranium is 2.8×10-7 Ω•m whereas copper has the resistivity of 1.68×10−8 Ω•m. The resistivity of uranium is almost 17 times higher than copper which makes it a poor conductor of electricity.
Since uranium is a heavy metal, it shows weaker metallic properties. The heat capacity of uranium is 3 times as low as that of iron. The thermal conductivity of uranium is 27 W/m•K which is about 15 times lower than that of copper. Hence, uranium is not a good conductor of heat or electricity.
What’s The Conductivity Of Uranium
Conductivity is a measure of the ability to transmit heat or electric current of an element. Usually, metals have higher electrical and thermal conductivity. Uranium is a heavy actinide series metal. Its density is about 70% higher than that of lead. As a weak metal, however, refined uranium shows poor electrical conductivity.
Table of Resistivity and Conductivity of some common metals at 20 °C
|Metal||Resistivity, ρ (Ω•m)||Conductivity, σ (S/m)|
If you compare uranium with other metals shown in the table, you will get a clear idea of its conductivity. As you can see, the resistivity of uranium is pretty high, and the conductivity is very low. Hence, uranium is considered a poor conductor of electricity.
Moreover, uranium is not a good heat conductor as well. Uranium has a low heat capacity. The thermal conductivity of uranium is also low compared to other metals.
Chart of Heat Capacity & Thermal Conductivity of some common metals at 20 °C
|Metal||Heat Capacity, c (J g-1 K-1)||Thermal Conductivity (W m-1⋅K-1)|
Can You Touch Uranium Metal
Uranium is a weak radioactive metal. Uranium emits alpha radiation. Its radiological effect is very weak and short-ranged and cannot penetrate human skin. Therefore, it cannot do much harm. However, human exposure to uranium and its decay product can be a health threat.
The chemical toxicity of uranium is more dangerous than its radioactivity. Since it is a weak radioactive metal, touching uranium would not cause much health risk. However, you should not touch it with bare hands. If you do so, wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
As uranium and its dust are chemically very toxic, never inhale or swallow uranium. It can cause severe health problems. To avoid physical touch and inhaling toxic chemical fumes, always wear PPE that is suitable for handling radioactive materials.
Can Uranium Be Flammable
Uranium powder is highly flammable and a fire-hazard element. Uranium powder or dust can react with water or moist air and create fire. However, uranium ore cannot be burned the way we burn wood. Technically, uranium is burned in a nuclear reactor to produce massive energy.
If uranium is burned, it produces uranium oxides which are hazardous, toxic, and radioactive. These oxides emit alpha radiation. If someone inhales the fume or dust, it can affect his/her kidneys, livers, heart, and other vital organs. It can increase lung cancer risk too.
What Is Uranium Reactive With
Uranium is a highly reactive metal. It is a strong electropositive metal. It reacts with almost every nonmetallic material (except noble gases), and their compounds. Its reactivity increases with temperature. Uranium powder is highly reactive and can react with water or moist air and forms toxic uranium oxides.
Hydrochloric and nitric acids can dissolve the uranium. However, non-oxidizing acids except HCl, react slowly with uranium. As pure uranium is very reactive, after extraction, uranium ore is converted to uranium dioxide or other chemical forms for industrial use.
Is Uranium Glass Harmful
Uranium glass, also known as vaseline glass, has a trace amount of uranium that is added to the glass mix before melting in order to color the glass and make it fascinating. Uranium glass shows fluorescent effect. It fluoresces bright green light under UV rays.
Usually, uranium glass contains up to 2% of uranium by weight. Although these glasses contain uranium compounds, they are negligibly radioactive. Therefore, uranium glass is considered to be totally harmless. It is safe to use uranium glassware.
How much uranium is in a nuke?
Uranium-235 is used to make nuclear weapons. A simple nuclear weapon requires approximately 40-50 kilograms of 90% enriched uranium-235 isotope. A 100-pound atomic bomb can release energy equal to more than 200000 tons of TNT.
Uranium is highly reactive, chemically toxic, and a weak radioactive metal. It is malleable, ductile, and very dense. Uranium shows relatively poor electrical and thermal conductivity.