Chemical Element: plutonium

(Modern Latin: named for the planet Pluto; radioactive metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Pu
Atomic number: 94
Year discovered: 1940

Discovered by: Glenn Theodore Seaborg (1912-1999), American physicist and co-workers; Arthur Charles Wahl and Joseph W. Kennedy, Edwin Mc Millan

  • Plutonium was synthesized by Seaborg, McMillan, Kennedy, and Wahl in 1940 by deuteron bombardment of uranium in a cyclotron (a device used to accelerate atomic particles) at Berkeley, California, USA.
  • Plutonium was the second transuranium element of the actinide series to be discovered.
  • In 1808, plutonium was suggested as a name for element 56 but Sir Humphrey Davy’s original name of barium for element 56 still stands.
  • Plutonium occurs in nature in very small concentrations in uranium-bearing ores.
  • Such plutonium was first detected, in Canadian pitchblende, by Seaborg and Morris L. Perlman in 1942.
  • The main use of plutonium is in the production of nuclear (atomic) energy.
  • It is a chemical element that is important in nuclear engineering and in the history of atomic weapons.

Name in other languages:

French: plutonium

German: Plutonium

Italian: plutonio

Spanish: plutonio

Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.