Thorium

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Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 by the Norwegian mineralogist Morten Thrane Esmark and identified by the Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Thorium produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. In nature, virtually all thorium is found as thorium-232. Other isotopes of thorium are short-lived intermediates in the decay chains of higher elements, and only found in trace amounts. Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust, and is chiefly refined from Monazite sands as a by-product of extracting rare earth metals.

Thorium was once commonly used as the light source in gas mantles and as an alloying material. Thorium is also used as an alloying element in nonconsumable TIG welding electrodes.

Thorium

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