How to Obtain and Extract Americium





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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    143 Discussions

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

    Does anything dangerous happen when you melt Americium-241?

    You can buy americium and many other elements on


    1 year ago

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

    3 replies

    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?

    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?

    12 replies

    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.

    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.


    From what I understand, the Am-241 used in these smoke detectors is actually in the form of americium dioxide (AmO2), which is insoluble. That being said, even if it were ingested it shouldn't lead to a significant absorption of Am-241 in the body. It should simply pass through the digestive tract with minimal radiation dose due to gamma rays. It would; however, pose a threat if it were ingested in soluble form. Just to be clear, I do not condone swallowing radioactive material regardless of the physical compound. Just saying, I don't believe it is dangerous if the Am-241 is in the insoluble form of AmO2. Or so I've heard.

    The Isotope Americium-241 that is contained in the smoke detectors can be used to detect Radiation by making an Ionization Chamber

    Further down in the posts here, you can make a random number generator. This is the same substance in all State Lottery machines in the United States for random number generation. So think of it this way, Every time you buy a quick pick lottery ticket, you are using Americium-241!


    No, Am-241 is not used to construct ionization chambers to detect RADIATION, it is used to detector ionization chambers to detect smoke or other particulates in the atmosphere.

    Just to clarify this factual error:

    Firstly, while alpha particles do not travel far in air, and many can be stopped by skin, they do penetrate to a degree.  22 micron thick paper with stop most of the alphas emitted from this particular radionuclide.  The higher the energy thought, the further they go.

    Secondly, and most importantly, the Am-241 decays with low energy gamma photons, but do not be deceived, what they lack in energy, they make up for in abundance leading to a very intense gamma radiation release per decay.

    Hopefully, someone has the good sense to know that detection methods are varied, and each has an efficiency for a given type of radiative energy, be it corpuscular or photon.  For Am-241, a Geiger counter for example is a TERRIBLE choice.  The alpha needs to be measured independently of the gamma by alpha spectrometry.  The gamma needs to be measured by either LSC (preferred), or gamma spectrometry (a suitable substitute).

    1.0 microcurie may not seem like a big deal, but the radiation you aren't detecting is.


    Per - Americium is also used as a portable source for gamma radiography

    I like to get about 12 of them and glue them to a bracelet I put around my balls. It's "tingley".