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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    146 Discussions


    2 months ago

    I have done this multiple times for various experiments. Yes, Americium is a very real radioactive element. Its extremely toxic by itself, and should not in any way be extracted or removed from the source disc. You would also have your work cut out for you, because the actual americium is in oxide form. Which is mixed with a gold alloy, and then fused via heat press in between two gold sheets. This is then rolled out very thin, and stamped into tiny gold discs and pressed into the buttons. So its in there really good, and meant to stay in there. Now, as far as safety goes, you will be fine. Treat it like lead, or mercury. Don't eat it, don't dissolve the disc in acid, don't hit it with a hammer, don't light it on fire. Don't do anything with it that you wouldn't do with any other potentially hazardous material. Follow this, and these buttons are actually very useful. Its a pure source of alpha radiation, it has a long half life, and its easy to get. Versus polonium (one of two available alpha sources the NRC allows sale of). Which has a comically short life of just under a year, and is very expensive... I suggest buying some activated zinc sulfide off United Nuclear, and making a spinthariscope. That's an easy and cool experiment for this material. If you are teaching a class, this is a perfect demo to show how paper can stop the radiation. Just make sure the school knows before you bring it in. Might save you some money that would otherwise be wasted on a short lived alpha source that has to be bought again every year...


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Do you, the editors at, really think it is a good idea to give instructions to impressionable script-kiddies on how to liberate a radioactive substance, even though it is only an Alpha emitter, with no apparent concern for their health or the health of the people that may come in contact with them or the products of their "experiments"? Even though Americium is "just" and Alpha emitter, Alpha particles can cause cellular damage including cancers. All it takes is the tiniest dust-like flake to be ingested or inhaled to cause serious, possibly life threatening damage.

    Here is the link to the EPA warning on Americium

    Once in the body, americium-241 tends to concentrate in the bone, liver, and muscle.
    Americium-241 poses a significant risk if ingested (swallowed) or inhaled. It can stay in the body for decades and continue to expose the surrounding tissues to both alpha and gamma radiation, increasing the risk of developing cancer. Americium-241 also poses a cancer risk to all organs of the body from direct external exposure to its gamma radiation.
    Exposure to any significant amount of Am-241 is unlikely under normal circumstances. ("Normal circumstances" do not include trying to access or remove the Am-241 source in a smoke detector!)

    5 replies

    Reply 3 months ago

    It would be best to read this first, then post comments. the Americium is so little that it's output is .01 that of the Background radiation we all are exposed to every day of our lives. Here's what My government says about these devices: "The radiation source in ionization chamber smoke detectors is sandwiched between metal foils, which keep the radioactive material well contained.
    The tiny amount of radiation that can be measured outside the unit does not pose any health risk. In fact, the average annual radiation dose a person receives from a smoke detector is 0.01 percent of the dose they receive from natural background radiation."


    Reply 3 months ago

    Small amounts of material can get scattered/deposited in the home and eventually ingested. That is extremely dangerous in the long term. Moreover, AM-241 has a half-life of 241 years so the risk will remain in the home long after the intiail experimenter is dead.

    University chemistry labs involve serious training in handing dangerous materials, but still need to deal with accidents regularly (at substantial cost). It's really easy for small amounts of material to go astray even when there is proper protective equipment.

    Arty Martymgreening

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    While I appreciate your sentiment, I don't think you should be pulling out the "do the editors at instructables think that..." card here.
    For example, there are a lot of projects on here that use MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) The dust from that, like asbestos, when it gets in your lungs or nose can cause cancer.
    I know most of the articles on here say you should wear a dust mask, and list the precautions that should be taken. The same "impressionable script-kiddies" could start working with MDF and ignore those precautions too.... should all those instructables be taken down?
    Then there are the ones that use fire, high voltages, water.... how many people are killed by fire, electrocution and drowning each year?

    If people are stupid enough to act stupidly, well... there are the Darwin Awards for that.
    If kiddies are too young to understand the danger, and do something irresponsible after reading something on the internet, then the question needs to be asked, what are their irresponsible parents doing? Not supervising them? Not teaching them to understand that some things are dangerous and if you read something that says here are the dangers, here are the precautions, then you should act accordingly?
    ...and if children are too young to understand that last concept, then the parents should still be supervising them.
    The world is a dangerous place. Covering everything in bubble wrap is not the answer. The world is also a fascinating place. Which you can't see and learn about through layers of bubble wrap.

    "just an alpha emitter" , alpha emitters are nasty(very) and so is alpha radiation but as long as you avoid any part of your body being within a few centimetres of the source for more than a few seconds you ought to be fine. radioactivity is a common natural phenomenon, we evolved to deal with background amounts so the amount from 1 detector may as well be harmless.


    1 year ago

    Inside the chamber I found only a bulb like think . It was an orinsong smokedetector . Is there americium inside the bulb like thing??


    2 years ago

    Does anything dangerous happen when you melt Americium-241?


    2 years ago

    You can buy americium and many other elements on


    2 years ago

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

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    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?


    7 years ago on Step 6

    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?

    5 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    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.

    Well, for fluorine, you'd have to use either a fluorine salt or some other fluorine compound. Alternatively, there are companies that make periodic table sets with elemental samples, and I believe that some of them use quartz tubes to contain the fluorine and then embed that in lexan/polycarbonate. Others use the salt/compound method of representing fluorine and other highly reactive species.

    As for most trans-uranics, well... GL getting samples, particularly as you get up into the "UnUn"-land.

    Normally people use a compound for those, or they just put something symbolic. Realistically there are plenty of elements that you can't get hold of because they have very short half lives and aren't found commonly or at all in nature. So some people limit themselves to the naturally occurring elements of which there are about 90.

    You're not going to get a sample of Francium, for instance, but you could include a sample of Thorite which has a couple of atoms of Francium in it at any one time.