How to Obtain and Extract Americium

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Introduction: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

This instructible shows how to obtain and extract Americium,have fun :)

Step 1: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

Inside inexpensive smoke alarms is a tiny amount of the radioactive element Americium. The isotope used, americium 241, has a half life of 452 years. Since americium 241 decays into the much more stable isotope neptunium 237 (half-life 2.1 million years), the sample in the smoke detector will have a few trillion new neptunium atoms in it every year.

Step 2: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

To get to the sample, we disassemble the smoke detector.

Step 3: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

The chamber that contains the americium sample is usually easy to find and open

Step 4: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

Removing the plastic parts gets us closer to the americium.

Step 5: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

The americium itself, in this smoke detector, is plated onto a small button of metal. Other detectors I have disassembled have the americium plated onto a small disc.

Step 6: How to Obtain and Extract Americium

If you have a geiger counter or a scintillation detector, you can use it to confirm that the sample is radioactive. Since americium 241 emits only alpha particles (and a very small amount of low energy gamma), it is safe if kept in the glass bottle, since alpha particles don't penetrate glass.

Okay,so now you know how to Obtain and Extract  americium :-o

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    142 Comments

    Does anything dangerous happen when you melt Americium-241?

    You can buy americium and many other elements on luciteria.com

    so that means that half the cost of the smoke detector is for the americium.

    So with the average smoke detector containing 0.3 micrograms, all I have to do is take apart 200 billion smoke detectors and I can make a bomb?

    So the americium 241 button weighs o.3 milligrams?

    Ok! Now that I've extracted Americium, what is it good for in it's simplest form besides a smoke detector? Why would anyone want to extract Americium? Just Curious?

    People put them in element collections, like me. Can I ask you, can you weigh the Am241 button for me and to me?

    Not much, besides the obvious curiosity factor. Some people like the keep rocks and gems, etc. One fun idea is to try and make your own periodic table display with samples of every element.

    You can use it, in large quantities, to make a neutron source with a sheet of aluminium. The alpha radiation collides the the Al atoms and kicks off neutrons which you can collimate using a lead box with a hole drilled through it. However, you need 1000+ smoke detectors to get that much. And really there's no reason you should be making neutron sources in your home, but making a neutron diffractometer could be quite interesting though.

    It's worth pointing out that you should wash your hands after handling the metal and make sure that you should keep it out of the way of children or anyone who might accidentally swallow it. I doubt the activity of the average smoke detector is particularly high, but ingesting an alpha source can be extremely dangerous if it gets lodged inside you.

    Stay safe, kids and don't underestimate the danger of radioactive sources.

    "make your own periodic table display with samples of every element." what are you going to do about fluorine and fermium for example?