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What Is Pitchblende?

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This is a closeup photograph of a piece of pitchblende, or uraninite.

This is a closeup photograph of a piece of pitchblende, or uraninite.

Geomartin, Public Domain
Question: What Is Pitchblende?
When learning about the element uranium, the term pitchblende commonly pops up. What is pitchblende and what does it have to do with uranium?
Answer: Pitchblende, also known by the name uraninite, is a mineral comprised mainly of oxides of the element uranium, UO2 and UO3. It is our primary source of uranium. The mineral is black in color, like 'pitch'. The term 'blende' came from the German miners who believed it contained many different metals all blended together.

Pitchblende contains many other radioactive elements that can be traced back to the decay of uranium, such as radium, lead, helium and several actinide elements.

Pitchblende was the source of discovery for several elements. In 1789, Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered and identified uranium as a new element from pitchblende. In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the element radium while working with pitchblende. In 1895, William Ramsay was the first to isolate helium from pitchblende.

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