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astatine (ăsˈtətēn, –tĭn) [Gr.,=unstable], semimetallic radioactive chemical element; symbol At; at. no. 85; at. wt. of most stable isotope 210; m.p. 302℃ (estimated); b.p. 337℃ (estimated); density unknown; valence believed to be +1, +3, +5, or +7. Astatine is the heaviest known halogen (Group 17 of the periodic table). Its chemical properties are believed to be similar to those of iodine. The most stable isotope, astatine-210, has a half-life of about 8 hours. More than 30 isotopes of astatine have been identified. Small amounts of astatine exist in equilibrium with uranium and thorium in the earth's crust, but the total amount of astatine is probably less than 1 oz. Astatine-211 (half-life 7.21 hr) is sometimes used as a radioactive tracer; like iodine, it collects in the thyroid gland. The discovery of astatine (first called alabamine) was announced in 1931 by Fred Allison and E. J. Murphy. In 1940, Emilio Segré, D. R. Corson, and K. R. Mackenzie produced astatine-211 by bombarding bismuth-209 with alpha particles in the cyclotron at the Univ. of California.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(At), a radioactive chemical element in Group VII of Mendeleev’s periodic system. Its atomic number is 85. Astatine has no stable isotope; at least 20 radioactive isotopes are known. The longest-lived of them, 210At, has a half-life T ½ of 8.3 hours. Numerous attempts by scientists of various countries to discover the 85th element in natural elements by all possible chemical and physical methods were unsuccessful. In 1940, E. Segré, D. Corson, and K. Mackenzie, working on a cyclotron at Berkeley, obtained the first isotope, 211At, by bombarding bismuth with alpha particles. The name astatine comes from the Greek astatos, meaning “unstable.” Only after this artificial derivation was it shown that four of the isotopes of astatine (215At, 216At, 2,8At, and 219At) are formed in very low-probability (5 x 10 “’-0.02 percent) branches of three natural series of the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. Astatine is adsorbed by metals (silver, gold, platinum) and evaporates easily under normal conditions and in a vacuum. Because of these properties, astatine can be separated (up to 85 percent) from the products of irradiated bismuth by means of vacuum distillation with adsorption of astatine by silver or platinum. The chemical properties of astatine are very interesting and unique. Astatine is as close to iodine as it is to polonium— that is, it displays properties of both a nonmetal (halogen) and a metal. This combination of properties is due to astatine’s position in the periodic system: it is the heaviest (and consequently the most “metallic”) element in the halogen group. Like the halogens, astatine gives insoluble salt, AgAt. Like iodine it oxidizes to a pentavalent state (the salt AgAt03 is analogous to AgIO3). However, like typical metals, astatine precipitates with hydrogen sulfide even from a highly acidic solution, it is displaced by zinc from sulfuric acid solutions, and it precipitates at the cathode during electrolysis. The presence of astatine is determined by characteristic alpha emission.


Gol’danskii, V. I. Novye elementy v Periodicheskoi sisteme D. I. Menedeleeva, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1964. Pages 131–41.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A radioactive chemical element, symbol At, atomic number 85, the heaviest of the halogen elements.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a radioactive element of the halogen series: a decay product of uranium and thorium that occurs naturally in minute amounts and is artificially produced by bombarding bismuth with alpha particles. Symbol: At; atomic no.: 85; half-life of most stable isotope, 210At: 8.1 hours; probable valency: 1,3,5, or 7; melting pt.: 302°C; boiling pt.: 337°C (est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005