The existence of promethium was predicted in 1902, but proof of its existence was only obtained during analysis of byproducts of uranium fission produced in a nuclear reactor located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1944. Promethium is named after Prometheus, who in Greek mythology stole fire from the Sun and brought it to earth.
Promethium does not occur in mineral deposits in any known abundance, and since it does have some minor uses, it is recovered as a byproduct of uranium fission.
APPLICATIONS OF PROMETHIUM
Energy: Promethium could be used to make a nuclear powered battery, which in operation uses the beta particles emitted by the decay of promethium to make a phosphor give off light. This light would then be converted into electricity by a device similar to a solar cell. It is expected that this type of battery could provide power for as much as a five year life. It can also be used as a thermoelectric generator to provide electricity for space probes and satellites
Instrumentation: Promethium can also be used as a portable x-ray source , and as a source of radioactivity for gauges that measure thickness. It may also be useful in lasers that can be used to communicate with submerged submarines.
Illumination Sources: Promethium chloride (PmCl3) mixed with zinc sulfide was used for a time as a major luminous paint for watches, compass and instrument dials after the use of radium was discontinued. The mixture is still occasionally used for some luminous paint applications, though many of these applications have switched to tritium for safety reasons.
LINKS: For chemical and physical properties: www.webelements.com or http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele061.html
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