Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 14, 2022


Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium

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An interesting chance to look at the link that now exists between chemists and philosophers of chemistry is the topic of the conceptual nature of the term "element." A substance that cannot be destroyed chemically is referred to as a chemical element. Although chemical processes cannot modify an atom, nuclear reactions can create new elements. The quantity of protons an element has defines it. An element's atoms all contain the same number of protons, but its electron and neutron counts can vary. Ions are produced by altering the electron to proton ratio, whereas isotopes are produced by altering the neutron count. Robert Boyle, an English scientist, originally proposed the concept of a chemical element. He stated that an element is a substance that is "incapable of breakdown" and added the prophetic by any means that we are now familiar with, just like a good scientist. Boyle's definition admirably approaches contemporary ideas. In today's laboratories, elements have been altered, though not chemically.


The first human societies discovered natural minerals like gold, copper, carbon, and sulphur. The history of the elements' discovery and use started here (though the concept of a chemical element was not yet understood). The classical elements, alchemy, and several other theories have all been the result of attempts to categorise such things throughout human history. The first recognisable periodic chart was created in 1869 by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, whose work made a substantial contribution to the modern understanding of the elements. In this table, the elements are grouped by increasing atomic number into rows (or "periods") and columns (or "groups") that frequently share comparable physical and chemical properties. The periodic table, which summarises several elemental properties, allows chemists to establish relationships between the elements and make predictions about compounds and potential new ones.

As of November 2016, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry had approved 118 elements. The first 94 elements are discovered naturally on Earth; the latter 24 are synthesised by nuclear reactions. Except for radioactive elements (radionuclides) that quickly disintegrate, nearly all elements are commercially available in a variety of proportions. Science is constantly looking into new substances and devising new processes to produce them.

Elements' Geochemical Classification

According to Goldschmidt, we may determine the geochemical categorization of the elements based on the information currently available regarding the affinities of different elements for oxygen and sulphur. He compiled a list of the elements that are concentrated in the iron phase of meteorites and likely also in the assumed iron core of the earth using the free energy of the production of oxides mixed with the free energy of the formation of various elements with iron. He referred to these substances as siderophile substances, or substances that tend to concentrate in metallic iron. Nickel, cobalt, and the metals from the palladium and platinum families are common examples.

The elements that have higher free energy of oxidation per gramme of oxygen than iron make up the second group. These substances are known as lithophile elements or elements that tend to concentrate in rocky stuff, according to Goldschmidt. Both the stony material on Earth and the stony material in meteorites contain concentrations of them as oxides or silicates. Troilite and other meteorite sulphide phases have concentrated amounts of the third group of elements, which Goldschmidt referred to as chalcophile elements. elements that can exist as volatile compounds or in their uncombine forms, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and rare gases. Goldschmidt claims that they are atmophile elements. The biophilic components that are concentrated in and by living plants may and animals finally be distinguished.

Properties of Elements

Sometimes an element's characteristics are divided into chemical and physical categories. Physical qualities are typically evaluated by looking at a sample of the pure element, whereas chemical properties are typically observed during a chemical reaction. The arrangement of electrons surrounding an atom's nucleus, especially the outer, or valence, electrons—which are involved in chemical reactions—determines an element's chemical characteristics. The atomic number does not change during a chemical reaction since the atomic nucleus is unaffected. Only a group of an element's atoms or molecules can be used to observe certain of its qualities. Colour, density, melting and boiling points, as well as thermal and electrical conductivity, are some of these characteristics. While some of these characteristics are primarily related to the element's electrical structure, others are more closely tied to nucleus characteristics, such as a mass number. Some properties of an element can only be observed in a collection of its atoms or molecules. Some of these qualities include hue, density, melting and boiling points, as well as thermal and electrical conductivity. While some of these characteristics are largely associated with the electrical structure of the element, others, like a mass number, are more intimately associated with the nucleus.

Uranium vs. Plutonium

The primary distinction between uranium and plutonium is that uranium can be found naturally in mines as ores that may then be processed. On the other hand, Plutonium is a unique element that cannot be produced naturally in any way. It is a by-product of the nuclear reaction between neutrons and uranium-238.

Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium in Tabular Form

Table: Uranium vs. Plutonium
Parameters of Comparison
The current periodic table places it first, right behind plutonium.
It comes after uranium in the present periodic table.
It is denoted by the letter U as a symbol.
It is referred to by the initials Pu.
Boiling Point
It has a greater boiling point than plutonium
It has a lower boiling point than uranium.
It has a longer half-life.
It has a shorter half-life.
Compared to plutonium, it is less radioactive.
It has a higher radioactive activity than uranium.

What is Uranium?

The chemical element uranium has the atomic number 92 and the letter U. On the periodic table, it is a member of the group of silvery-grey actinide metals. There are 92 protons and 92 electrons in an atom of uranium, of which 6 are valence electrons. The low radioactivity of uranium is because all of its isotopes are unstable. The half-lives of uranium's naturally occurring isotopes range from 159,200 years to 4.5 billion years. Over 99 per cent of the uranium on Earth is made up of the two most prevalent naturally occurring uranium isotopes, uranium-235 and uranium-238 (which has 143 neutrons). Of all the elements that were present in the early universe, uranium has the highest atomic weight. Its density is somewhat lower than that of gold or tungsten and is roughly 70% higher than that of lead. It is extracted for commercial use from uranium-bearing minerals like uraninite, where it is found naturally in small amounts of a few parts per million in soil, rock, and water.

The remarkable nuclear characteristics of uranium are exploited in a wide variety of modern uses. Since uranium-235 is the only naturally occurring fissile isotope, nuclear power plants and weaponry frequently use it. But because there are so few uranium-235 atoms in nature, enrichment is necessary to produce enough of it. In contrast to uranium-238, which has a low likelihood of spontaneous or even induced fission with fast neutrons, uranium-235 and, to a lesser extent, uranium-233 have a substantially higher fission cross-section for slow neutrons. These isotopes can sustain a nuclear chain reaction in sufficient concentration. This creates the fissile material for nuclear weapons as well as the heat needed to operate nuclear power reactors. Armour plating and kinetic energy penetrators both employ depleted uranium (238U). In uranium glass, uranium is used as a colourant to create colours ranging from lemon yellow to green. UV radiation causes the green fluorescence of uranium glass. Early photographs also employed it for shade and colouring.

Characteristics of Uranium

Except for noble gases, practically all non-metal elements and their compounds are reactive with uranium metal, and this reactivity increases with temperature. Uranium can be broken down by hydrochloric and nitric acids, although non-oxidizing acids other than hydrochloric acid destroy the substance very slowly. It can react with cold water when finely divided, and when exposed to air, uranium metal develops a thick layer of uranium oxide. Chemical methods are used to extract uranium from ores and transform it into chemical forms that can be used in industry, such as uranium dioxide.

The first isotope to be discovered to be fissile was uranium-235. They are not fissile, which makes them different from other naturally occurring isotopes. The uranium-235 isotope frequently splits into two smaller nuclei when struck by slow neutrons, releasing nuclear binding energy and more neutrons. Rarely, the nuclear chain reaction that emerges when too many of these neutrons are absorbed by additional uranium-235 nuclei can cause a blast of heat. Such a chain reaction is slowed and controlled in a nuclear reactor by a neutron poison that traps some of the free neutrons. These neutron absorbent materials are frequently used in reactor control rods.

What is Plutonium?

With the atomic number 94 and the chemical symbol Pu, plutonium is a radioactive chemical element. It is an actinide metal with a silvery-grey appearance that oxidises into a drab coating when exposed to air. Four oxidation states and six allotropes of the element are often present. It combines silicon, hydrogen, nitrogen, halogens, carbon, and nitrogen. It produces oxides and hydrides, which can increase the volume of the sample by up to 70% when exposed to moist air. These compounds then flake off as a pyrophoric powder. Because it is radioactive and can build up in bones, handling plutonium is risky.

Using the 1.5-metre (60 in) cyclotron at the University of California, Berkeley, the deuteron bombardment of uranium-238 resulted in the first synthetic production and isolation of plutonium in late 1940 and early 1941. The process began with the synthesis of neptunium-238 (half-life: 2.1 days), which was followed by the beta-decay of a new element with the atomic number 94 and the atomic weight 238. (half-life 88 years). Element 94 was called after Pluto, which at the time was also thought of as a planet, in the same way, that uranium and neptunium had been named after the planets Uranus and Neptune. The University of California team was unable to publicise its discoveries until 1948 due to wartime secrecy. The first practical production of plutonium took place thanks in large part to the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic weapons during World War II. Both the bombing of Nagasaki in August 1945 and the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945 used Fat Man bombs with plutonium cores. Human radiation testing for plutonium research was conducted without the subjects' informed agreement, and the conflict was followed by several deadly critical events. What nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants dispose of their spent fuel raises nuclear proliferation and environmental concerns. Another source of plutonium in the environment comes from multiple above-ground nuclear tests, which are currently forbidden.

Characteristics of Plutonium

Like most metals, plutonium initially has a dazzling silvery look, similar to that of nickel, but it gradually oxidises to a drab grey colour, though it has also been observed to appear yellow and olive green. The "alpha" form of plutonium exists at ambient temperature. Except when it is alloyed with other metals to make it soft and ductile, this element's most prevalent structural form (allotrope) is about as hard and brittle as grey cast iron. Plutonium oxides are a desirable form of l for uses like nuclear fission reactor fuel due to their low melting point and higher reactivity than the native metal (MOX-fuel).

The release of a very energetic helium nucleus via alpha decay is the most common radioactive decay type for plutonium. 12.5 1024 atoms make up a mass of 239Pu weighing 5 kilogrammes. Its atoms decay at a rate of 11.51012 per second, resulting in an alpha particle with a mass of 5.157 MeV and a half-life of 24,100 years. A resistivity is a unit of measurement for how much a substance opposes the flow of electric current. At room temperature, plutonium has a relatively high resistivity for metal and, unusually for metals, it gets even higher as the temperature drops. Below 100 K, resistivity for fresh samples rapidly falls, continuing the pattern. At roughly 20 K, radiation damage causes resistivity to start rising over time; the pace at which this happens depends on the sample's isotopic composition. Unlike most materials, plutonium has a 2.5 per cent density gain during melting, while the density of the liquid metal decreases linearly with temperature.  In comparison to other metals, the liquid plutonium exhibits extremely high viscosity and surface tension close to the melting point.

Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium In Points

  • In the modern periodic table's actinide series, uranium is placed before plutonium. They are represented by a variety of symbols that show how they participate in various chemical reactions.
  • Long before plutonium was created, a scientist found uranium. However, this is the case since the concept of uranium was exploited to generate plutonium. Compared to plutonium, uranium has a greater boiling point. The distinction is that the boiling points of uranium and plutonium are different. Because uranium has a higher boiling point than plutonium, their respective boiling points are different. The boiling points of uranium and plutonium are different, with uranium having a greater boiling point.
  • Compared to plutonium, uranium has a greater boiling point. Their boiling points differ by around 903 degrees Celsius, which is a significant variation.
  • Comparatively speaking, uranium has a far longer half-life than plutonium.
  • In comparison to plutonium, uranium is thought to be less radioactive.


Both of these elements have very high costs and are radioactive and reactive. They should only be handled in the company of a professional and secure setting. If you possess a significant amount of these materials, the government may take strong enforcement measures against you unless you have a licence to do so. While both of these substances may appear to be quite commonplace, they possess some highly harmful qualities. Apart from the fact that one of them is derived from the other, these elements don't have much in common. Scientists everywhere must use these components to improve the planet.



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"Difference Between Uranium and Plutonium." Diffzy.com, 2023. Thu. 23 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-uranium-and-plutonium-803>.

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