Element 96 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is curium. Curium’s radioactivity limits its uses – but also enables its use as a source of alpha particles in space probe spectrometers.
Curium emits alpha radiation, which means that it can be used as an alpha particle source. It has been put to this use in X-ray spectrometers in a number of space probes, including in the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Curium, like americium, also has the potential to be used to power satellites and probes. However, its rarity and cost make any future commercial use for this purpose unlikely.
Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.