Cesium

Blood pressure monitor

Cesium (sometimes spelled ‘caesium’) was discovered by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff in 1860. Cesium was the first metal to be discovered by the spectroscope (invented the year before), along with rubidium. Cesium is a silvery gold, soft, alkali metal and is one of five metals that is liquid at, or near room temperature. Cesium is a very rare element, mostly found in unusual, highly evolved granitic pegmatite rocks in form of the mineral pollucite and in certain brines.

Avalon’s Lilypad Lakes property in Northwestern Ontario hosts a pollucite-rich pegmatite that may be a significant undeveloped cesium resource. Pollucite currently occurs in commercial quantities in only two deposits in the world: the Tanco pegmatite in Manitoba, Canada and the Bikita pegmatite in Zimbabwe.

Applications of Cesium:

Cesium has only been commercially available for about forty years as a by-product of lithium chemical production.

  • Biomedical Uses:  The best-known use of cesium is in liquids for the separation of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid.  Cesium compounds are used as catalysts in biomedical and chemical research, and for tagging or tracing compounds.  Cesium chloride has recently been found to be effective in treating all forms of cancer and shows great potential as a new cure for this disease. Radioactive isotopes of cesium have long been used for radiation treatment of, for example, prostate cancer.
     
  • Manufacturing:  Cesium formate, a specialty drilling fluid developed by Cabot Corporation, is used in drilling deep, high pressure, high-temperature oil wells. This application represents the largest current industrial application for cesium. 
     
  • Electronics:  The low ionization potential of cesium is exploited in photoelectric cell design and in photo-emissive and scintillation devices in electronics. A cesium vapour-laser computer has been experimentally demonstrated and cesium is commonly used in magnetometers for submarine detection and mineral exploration geophysics. It is presently used in infrared optics and is finding growing use in solar cell technology.
     
  • Chronometry: The atomic clock - a 1999 design accurate to one second in 2 million years - functions on the basis of cesium’s constant atomic resonance. It is also used for closer spacing of data packages that multiplies capacities of fibre optic cable systems. 
     
  • Magneto-Hydrodynamics and Ion Propulsion Motors:  Cesium can be used as a plasma for electricity generation and for ion propulsion motors in deep space probes.

All alkali metals are highly reactive. Cesium, being one of the heavier alkali metals, is also one of the most reactive and is highly explosive when it comes in contact with water. The hydrogen gas produced by the reaction is heated by the thermal energy released at the same time, causing ignition and a violent explosion.

See Also:

Web Elements
Chem Heritage