What Are the Uses of Cesium?

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What Are the Uses of Cesium?
Caesium is represented by the symbol Cs on the Periodic Table of the Elements. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Caesium, also spelt caesium, is a member of the alkali family of elements and, according to ChemistryExplained.com, it is the most active of all the metals. Discovered in 1861 by German chemists Fustov Kirchoff and Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen, caesium was named after the Latin word "caesius," which means "sky blue," due to the bright blue colour this metal emits when burnt. This alkaline metal now serves many purposes in several industries across the globe.

Photoelectric Cell Catalyst

<p>ChemistryExplained.com states that caesium is used in photoelectric cells, which are devices used to convert sunlight into electricity. The electrons in caesium atoms are stimulated by direct sunlight, and in photoelectric cells these electrons flow to create an electric current. The fact that, according to Nautilus, caesium is easily ionised by light energy makes this element an ideal catalyst for photoelectric cells and infrared detectors.

Radiation Therapy

According to the Mineral Information Institute, Cesium-137 is radioactive and often used in radiation therapy to treat various forms of cancer. Business Wire reported in 2010 that the FDA cleared the use of Cesium-131 for radiation therapy for breast, brain, prostate, colon, lung and ocular melanoma cancers, and is being used in more than 100 cancer treatment centres across the United States, as of 2011.

A "Getter"

<p>ChemistryExplained.com states that caesium is used as what is known as a "getter" in evacuated tubes and light bulbs. These tubes and bulbs must be as clear of gases as possible to work correctly, and caesium reacts with any gases left in the vacuum to create a solid caesium compound. The term "getter" stems from the act of "getting" gases out of a bulb.

Atomic Clock Propulsion

One of cesium's most important uses is in the propulsion systems of atomic clocks, the most precise clocks for measuring time. Atomic clocks use Cesium-137 to measure time by monitoring the movements of the element's outer electrons, which give off radiation that vibrates at a constant speed when exposed to a beam of energy. The speed of these vibrations is measured and multiplied by 9,192,635,770 to determine the official speed of a second.

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