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  • Dexter Hom

The Discovery of Glow-in-the-Dark Paint

Back in the 1800’s and 1900’s, science began to rebrand and renew itself with a time period we know as the Scientific Revolution. New ideas of how the world worked and the small processes that make up everything began to interest a new generation of scientists. One of these was Marie Curie, a Polish Scientist with a curious fascination with uranium and radioactive elements. She looked into Henri Becquerel’s, a well known physicist, work about radiation like X-rays. This interested Curie.

Later, she and her husband, Pierre Curie, worked on figuring out how these rays were emitted. What they found out was that these rays came from the atomic structure of the element. From samples of Radioactive Ore (Pitchblende), Curie discovered that these radioactive rays came from Uranium, a radioactive element in the ore. During her experiments with Uranium and its radioactive rays, she also looked into the ore itself as well. Through her observations, she noticed that even when all the uranium was taken out of the ore, the leftover from this pitchblende was actually more radioactive than the uranium itself. This provoked Curie to examine the remaining rock for more information on why it was so radioactive. From this, she discovered a new element, that would be called Radium, due to the radius of its radioactive rays. For every ton of uranium ore, there is about 0.14 grams of Radium.

This 1902 discovery helped Curie win her first Nobel Prize in both Physics and Chemistry in 1903 and 1914, respectively. The element and its compounds would be used in luminous, or glow-in-the-dark paint, until it was found dangerous after people ingested objects with this paint on it. Today we can see Radium used in medical practices, such as radiation treatment and as isotopes for tracking diseases.


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