Bismuth-209 is the "virtually stable" isotope of bismuth with the longest half-life. It has 83 protons and 126 neutrons, and an atomic mass of 208.9803987 u. All primordial bismuth is of this isotope. It is a decay product from lead-209 decaying by β--decay.
Bismuth-209 was long thought to have the heaviest stable nucleus of any element, but in 2003, Noël Coron and his colleagues at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, discovered that 209Bi undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of approximately 600 yottaseconds (1.9×1019 years), over a billion times longer than the current estimated age of the universe. Theory had previously predicted a half-life of 4.6×1019 years. The decay event produces a 3.14 MeV alpha particle and converts the atom to thallium-205.
Due to its extraordinarily long half-life, for nearly all applications bismuth-209 can still be treated as if it were non-radioactive. Although bismuth-209 holds the half-life record for alpha decay, bismuth does not have the longest half-life of any radionuclide to be found experimentally—this distinction belongs to tellurium-128 with a half-life estimated at 7.7 x 1024 years by double beta decay.
Hypothetically, if the entire 2010 output were to be stored until the doubling of the current age of the universe (~13.8 billion years from now), less than 4.5 grams would have decayed based upon Coron's half-life data (which is less than the weight of a US quarter dollar).[notes 1]
In the red giant stars of the asymptotic giant branch, the s-process (slow process) is ongoing to produce bismuth-209 and polonium-210 by neutron capture as the heaviest elements to be formed, and the latter quickly decays. All elements heavier than it are formed in the r-process, or rapid process, which occurs during the first fifteen minutes of supernovae.
- 4.48 grams = 8900000000 * (1 - 0.5 ^ (13798000000 / (600 * (10 ^ 24) / 31557600)))
- 8,900 metric tons * 1000000 grams/metric ton = 8900000000 grams mined in the year 2010
- 13,798,000,000 years since big bang
- Half-life of 209Bi = 600 yottaseconds = 600*10^24 seconds
- 31,557,600 seconds/year
- Amount decayed = Original amount * (1 - 0.5^(Years to decay / half-life in years))
- Dumé, Belle (2003-04-23). "Bismuth breaks half-life record for alpha decay". Physicsweb.
- Marcillac, Pierre de; Noël Coron, Gérard Dambier, Jacques Leblanc, and Jean-Pierre Moalic (April 2003). "Experimental detection of α-particles from the radioactive decay of natural bismuth". Nature 422 (6934): 876–878. Bibcode:2003Natur.422..876D. doi:10.1038/nature01541. PMID 12712201.
- http://presolar.wustl.edu/work/noblegas.html Tellurium-128 information and half-life. Accessed July 14, 2009.
- Carlin, James F., Jr. "2010 USGS Minerals Yearbook: Bismuth" (PDF). United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
- "Swiss study: Polonium found in Arafat’s bones". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- Chaisson, Eric, and Steve McMillan. Astronomy Today. 6th ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education, 2008.