The Facts


Neptunium-(Planet Neptune), Np; at. wt. (237); at. no. 93; m.p. 644 deg C; b.p. 3902 deg C (est.); sp. gr. 20.25 (20 deg C); valence 3,4,5, and 6. Neptunium was the first synthetic transuranium element of the actinide series discovered; the isotope 239Np was produced by McMillan and Abelson in 1940 at Berkeley, California, as the result of bombarding uranium with cyclotron-produced neutrons. The isotope 237Np (half-life of 2.14 x 10^6 years) is currently obtained in gram quantities as a by-product from nuclear reactors in the production of plutonium. Twenty isotopes and isomers of neptunium are now recognized. Trace quantities of the element are actually found in nature due to transmutation reactions in uranium ores produced by the neutrons which are present. Neptunium is prepared by the reduction of NpF3 with barium or lithium vapor at about 1200 deg C. Neptunium metal has a silvery appearance, is chemically reactive, and exists in at least three structural modifications: alpha-neptunium, orthorhombic, density 20.25 g/cu cmm3, beta-neptunium (above 280 deg C), tetragonal, density (313 deg C) 19.36 g/cu cm; gamma-neptunium (above 577 deg C), cubic, density (600 deg C) 18.0 g/cu cm. Neptunium has four ionic oxidation states in solution: Np+3 (pale purple), analogous to the rare earth ion Pm+3, Np+4 (yellow green); NpO+ (green blue); and NpO++ (pale pink). These latter oxygenated species are in contrast to the rare earths which exhibit only simple ions of the (II), (III), and (IV) oxidation states in aqueous solution. The element forms tri- and tetrahalides such as NpF3; NpF4, NpCl4, NpBr3, NpI3, and oxides of various compositions such as are found in the uranium-oxygen system, including Np3O8 and NpO2. Fifteen isotopes of neptunium are now recognized. The O.R.N.L. has 237Np available for sale to its licensees and for export. This isotope can be used as a component in neutron detection instruments. It is offered at a price of $660/g plus packing costs.

Name: Neptunium
Symbol: Np
Atomic Number: 93
Atomic Mass: 237 amu
Common Isotopes: Isotopes of neptunium with mass numbers from 228 to 242 are known. The most stable, neptunium-237, has a half-life of 2.14 million years.  Here is a list of some.

Nuclide Mass Spin Half life Decay mode
235Np 235 5/2 1.085y EC,Alpha
236Np 236 6 1.55E05y EC,Beta-
236Npm 236.047 1 22.5h EC,Beta-
237Np 237.048 5/2 2.14E06y Alpha
238Np 238 2 2.117d Beta-
239Np 239 5/2 2.355d Beta-
240Np 240 5 1.032h Beta-
240Npm 240 1 7.22m Beta-,IT

Ground State Electron Configuration: [Rn] 5f4 6d1 7s2
Common Oxidation States: 6,5,4,3
Classification: One of the transuranium elements of the actinide series, rare earth metal.
Melting Point: 644 C
Boiling Point: 3902 C
Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic at room temperature.


Atomic Structure:

[Bohr Model of Neptunium]                           

Density @ 20 C: 20.25 g/cm3
Characteristics: Silvery, radioactive metal that exists in at least three different crystalline forms.
Electronegativity: 1.36
Name Origin: Named for the planet Neptune, which is beyond Uranus in the solar system. 

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Discovered By: E.M. McMillan, P.H. Abelson
Year: 1940
Sources: Produced by bombarding uranium with slow neutrons.
Price per gram: $660/gram
Uses: This long-lived isotope served as a useful research tool in the atomic bomb project and is used in studies of chemical reactivity. Neptunium occurs in nature in trace amounts in uranium ores but is produced artificially. It is used as a component in neutron detection devices.

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