Why is Francium the most reactive metal?

Francium is part of a group of metals on the periodic table that are referred to as ‘alkali metals(1).’ In this group there are actually a number of different metals but as you start moving down the list from lithium to francium the number of electrons starts to increase. As those electrons increase the reactive valence electron starts to move further and further from the nucleus(1). Because of this, the protons in the nucleus have less control on this electron and it is able to move around nearly as freely as it wants.

When the reactive valence electron doesn’t have the pull that it needs and is left to its own devices like this it causes the entire element to become more and more volatile. In the case of francium it can be extremely volatile because of it’s increased electrons. That means if you aren’t careful it can cause extreme explosions and reactions to a variety of different things, but especially when immersed in a small amount of water or even just exposed to an extremely small amount of water(1).

What Happens in Water?

Of course, you’re going to want to know just what happens when you expose francium to water, right? Who wouldn’t? Well, if you mix it with just a small vial of water you’re actually going to get an extremely violent explosion. Though, there’s not been a lot of tests on this process yet.

The Basics of Francium(1)

  • Half life of 22 minutes
  • Atomic 223
  • No stable isotopes
  • 27 degrees Celsius melting point
  • 677 degrees Celsius boiling point
  • 87 protons and electrons
  • 136 neutrons in largest isotope
  • Alkali metal

Background on Francium

Discovered by Marguerite Perey back in 1939, francium is actually an extremely unstable material in nearly every respect as well as being highly reactive(1). On top of this it’s also extremely radioactive, which makes it dangerous to use for experimentation or other purposes. Produced only in extremely small quantities through a particle accelerator, this metal doesn’t have the quantities to really show it’s reactions with water in nearly any situation.

With a half-life of only 22 minutes, this material is actually liquid at room temperature, though no one has ever gathered enough of it to actually see this for certain because of the extreme volatility(1). Located in the Earth’s crust, francium is actually the 2nd most rare element located in this ring of the Earth. Though it can be produced, less than 30 grams is believed to exist on the Earth at any single point in time(1). This is one reason that it’s been under review and strongly researched for such an extensive period of time.

Uses of Francium

At this point, because it is so volatile and very little is known about it, francium is actually not available in larger quantities. There hasn’t actually been any purpose discovered to use it for because of the volatility and the rarity of the material, which means there’s really no reason that we need it other than continuing to research what may someday be a suitable purpose(1).

Francium, because of it’s high level of volatility is something that needs to be researched and should most definitely be studied so that it can someday be used for something. Because it is so reactive, however, it’s going to be difficult to understand what it can do and what could cause extreme reactions that it already has with any amount of water. As more is found about this material, it’s entirely possible that something else could be done in the future.


1. Chemicool. Francium. http://www.chemicool.com/elements/francium.html

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