Uranium Metal Cube
Uranium Metal Cube
Oh my! A solid block of uranium metal carved into a perfect cube centimeter is something special indeed.
While no doubt expensive, this little treasure may well be the most dramatic collectible we've offered so far. Bring it to your family and friends (or your coworkers) and you can expect some to disbelieve you, others to run for their lives and maybe a few to immediately report you as a terrorist. Whatever the case I'm sure you'll agree that it will ellicit a response unlike any of the other elements!
Because it's radioactive and associated with atom bombs there is in the mind of the public a primal fear of uranium. It is, however, a little undeserved. Yes, radioactivity can be deadly. Madame Curie kept by her bedside a lump of radium she extracted from ore because that neat glow looked oh so cool but it ended up costing her her life. But that was radium, a waaaay deadlier element. When the uranium atom was cleaved over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it was the resulting chemical byproducts that killed (in addition to the heat and bomb blast) rather than the uranium itself.
It isn't exactly advertised by the airline industry but it was commonplace to have several hundred pounds of uranium at the tail end of airplanes as counterweights. Literally tons of uranium metal today are converted into rounds meant to penetrate tank armor. None of these and other uses are advertised, of course, to avoid needlessly freaking out the public.
But the truth is that not all radioactive substances are created equal. The scale of radioactivity easiest to grasp is the half-life; that is, the time it takes for any given amount of a radioactive element to break down into different elements plus energy. The shorter the half-life the higher the amount of radioactivity. Curie didn't know it but her novelty night light had a really dangerous half-life of just 1,600 years which produced an intense amount of energy. Uranium on the other hand, with its 4.5 billion year half-life (the age of the sun), is essentially harmless in solid form.
Nevertheless, that's not to say that keeping uranium around the house is as safe as handling a can of tuna. It becomes a very real threat to life if it lodges inside your body. Although it may have low radioactivity over the course of decades one's chances of getting cancer shoot up dramatically due to the tissue degradation from constant close contact. Specifically, this threat applies to uranium metal that has been allowed to become pulverized as the particles can then be inhaled. However, it could also apply to simple ingestion such as could foreseeably happen if a small kid were to swallow one.
So how much radiation exactly? Each 10mm cube of uranium emanates approximately 1 μSv (~200 CPM) per hour. If one were to carry it in their pocket round the clock for a year it would be roughly the same amount of radiation as getting a CT scan - not insignificant but it does put it all into perspective.
We have a very limited number of these density cubes. In theory, U.S. law allows commercial trade of up to 15 kilograms in depleted uranium annually. That would work out to some 750 of these cubes but the available number from our supplier is far less than this limit. The making of these cubes requires special practices to deal with uranium's unique machining requirements which significantly increase the cost over the raw material. In all, we expect to have access to no more than 10 to 20 of these cubes per year making it, without question, one of the most desirable scientific collectibles ever made!
To our international customers: we are very sorry but due to federal regulations uranium metal cannot be exported out of the USA.