Californium is one of the highly radioactive elements and is a silvery white colored element. Californium belongs to the actinide series and is considered as rare earth element. The element californium derives its name from state of California as it was first synthesized in 1950 at the University of California. Californium is one of the few trans-uranium elements which could be synthesized and used for practical applications. Californium finds application in starting of nuclear reactors mainly due to its ability of emitting neutrons. Moreover, californium can also be used to study the neutron spectroscopy or neutron diffraction. Californium plays a vital role in synthesizing higher mass elements such as ununoctium. In spite of its considerable usages in nuclear reactor and in synthesizing of heavy mass elements, the radioactive nature of californium affects its application. Californium is produced in very miniscule quantities in nuclear reactor by bombarding plutonium by neutrons. Since, the production of californium is very less, the market for californium is extremely niche. Currently the production for californium carried out in very small quantities at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in U.S. and in Research Institute of Atomic Reactors, Russia.
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Californium exists in two crystalline forms under normal pressure and the third form at extremely high pressure. The two crystalline forms available, tend to get tarnished at room temperature. The most common isotope of californium (californium-252) has a half life of 2.64 years while the most stable isotope of californium (californium-251) has a half life of 898 years. Californium is chiefly used as a source of emission of neutrons in nuclear reactor. According to one of the researches, one micro gram of californium has a capability to release 0.17 billion neutrons suitable to start multiple nuclear fission reactions. This ability of californium enhances the delivery of neutrons in nuclear reactors, making it ideal substitute for various other radioactive elements used for free neutrons source. Moreover, as californium emits high amount of neutrons, it could be used in the discovery of precious metals such as silver or gold. This potential application is expected to boost the demand for californium in next few years. Furthermore, one of the isotopes of californium (californium-252) finds usage in cancer treatment. Recently, californium is used in moisture gauges primarily used in detecting ground water movement. The radioactive nature of californium coupled with its complex process of production is anticipated to restrict the large scale production of californium, thus affecting californium market to certain extent.
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Considering all the potential usages, the market for californium is expected to grow in next few years. The cancer treatment application is anticipated to increase the production of californium making it available in commercial quantities. The demand for californium is expected to be high from developed regions such as Europe and the U.S as these regions show tremendous growth potential in cancer research. Owing to strong research work in nuclear reactions and its potential benefits, the californium market is anticipated to flourish in the developed regions. Moreover, californium has a strong ability of synthesizing heavy mass elements which makes californium vital in research work. The capability of californium to release large number of neutrons could be used in discovery of precious elements such as gold and silver. In spite of the challenges posed regarding the production of californium, the potential range of applications is expected to drive the market of californium in the developed regions.