A sample of radium, the element which was used in the original definition of the curie.
|Unit of||Specific activity|
|Named after||Pierre Curie|
|1 Ci in ...||... is equal to ...|
|SI derived unit||37 GBq|
|SI base unit||3.7×1010 s−1|
The curie (symbol Ci) is a non-SI unit of radioactivity originally defined in 1910. According to a notice in Nature at the time, it was named in honour of Pierre Curie, but was considered at least by some to be in honour of Marie Curie as well.
It was originally defined as "the quantity or mass of radium emanation in equilibrium with one gram of radium (element)"  but is currently defined as 1 Ci = 3.7×1010 decays per second after more accurate measurements of the activity of 226Ra (which has a specific activity of 3.66×1010 Bq/g).
- 1 Ci = 3.7×1010 Bq = 37 GBq
- 1 Bq ≅ 2.703×10−11 Ci ≅ 27 pCi
While its continued use is discouraged by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other bodies, the curie is still widely used throughout government, industry and medicine in the United States and in other countries.
At the 1910 meeting which originally defined the curie, it was proposed to make it equivalent to 10 nanograms of radium (a practical amount). But Marie Curie, after initially accepting this, changed her mind and insisted on one gram of radium. According to Bertram Boltwood, Marie Curie thought that 'the use of the name "curie" for so infinitesimally small [a] quantity of anything was altogether inappropriate.'
The power in milliwatts emitted by one curie of radiation can be calculated by taking the number of MeV for the radiation times approximately 5.93.
A radiotherapy machine may have roughly 1000 Ci of a radioisotope such as caesium-137 or cobalt-60. This quantity of radioactivity can produce serious health effects with only a few minutes of close-range, unshielded exposure.
The typical human body contains roughly 0.1 μCi (14 mg) of naturally occurring potassium-40. A human body containing 16 kg of carbon (see Composition of the human body) would also have about 24 nanograms or 0.1 μCi of carbon-14. Together, these would result in a total of approximately 0.2 μCi or 7400 decays per second inside the person's body (mostly from beta decay but some from gamma decay).
Curie as a measure of quantity
Units of activity (the curie and the becquerel) also refer to a quantity of radioactive atoms. Because the probability of decay is a fixed physical quantity, for a known number of atoms of a particular radionuclide, a predictable number will decay in a given time. The number of decays that will occur in one second in one gram of atoms of a particular radionuclide is known as the specific activity of that radionuclide.
The activity of a sample decreases with time because of decay.
The rules of radioactive decay may be used to convert activity to an actual number of atoms. They state that 1 Ci of radioactive atoms would follow the expression:
- N (atoms) × λ (s−1) = 1 Ci = 3.7 × 1010 Bq
- N = 3.7 × 1010 Bq / λ,
where λ is the decay constant in s−1.
We can also express activity in moles:
Here are some examples, ordered by half-life:
|Isotope||Half life||Mass of 1 curie||Specific activity (Ci/g)|
|232Th||1.405×1010 years||9.1 tonnes||1.1×10−7 (110,000 pCi/g, 0.11 µCi/g)|
|238U||4.471×109 years||2.977 tonnes||3.4×10−7 (340,000 pCi/g, 0.34 µCi/g)|
|40K||1.25×109 years||140 kg||7.1×10−6 (7,100,000 pCi/g, 7.1 µCi/g)|
|235U||7.038×108 years||463 kg||2.2×10−6 (2,160,000 pCi/g, 2.2 µCi/g)|
|129I||15.7×106 years||5.66 kg||0.00018|
|99Tc||211×103 years||58 g||0.017|
|239Pu||24.11×103 years||16 g||0.063|
|240Pu||6563 years||4.4 g||0.23|
|14C||5730 years||0.22 g||4.5|
|226Ra||1601 years||1.01 g||0.99|
|241Am||432.6 years||0.29 g||3.43|
|238Pu||88 years||59 mg||17|
|137Cs||30.17 years||12 mg||83|
|90Sr||28.8 years||7.2 mg||139|
|241Pu||14 years||9.4 mg||106|
|3H||12.32 years||104 μg||9,621|
|228Ra||5.75 years||3.67 mg||273|
|60Co||1925 days||883 μg||1,132|
|210Po||138 days||223 μg||4,484|
|131I||8.02 days||8 μg||125,000|
|123I||13 hours||518 ng||1,930,000|
|212Pb||10.64 hours||719 ng||1,390,000|
The following table shows radiation quantities in SI and non-SI units:
|Activity (A)||curie||Ci||3.7 × 1010 s−1||1953||3.7×1010 Bq|
|rutherford||Rd||106 s−1||1946||1,000,000 Bq|
|Exposure (X)||röntgen||R||esu / 0.001293 g of air||1928||2.58 × 10−4 C/kg|
|Absorbed dose (D)||erg||erg⋅g−1||1950||1.0 × 10−4 Gy|
|rad||rad||100 erg⋅g−1||1953||0.010 Gy|
|Dose equivalent (H)||röntgen equivalent man||rem||100 erg⋅g−1||1971||0.010 Sv|
|sievert||Sv||J⋅kg−1 × WR||1977||SI unit|
- Geiger counter
- Ionizing radiation
- Radiation exposure
- Radiation poisoning
- Radiation burn
- United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
- Rutherford, Ernest (6 October 1910). "Radium Standards and Nomenclature". Nature. 84 (2136): 430–431. Bibcode:1910Natur..84..430R. doi:10.1038/084430a0.
- Frame, Paul (1996). "How the Curie Came to Be". Health Physics Society newsletter. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- Delacroix, D (2002). Radionuclide and Radiation Protection Data Handbook 2002. Radiation Protection Dosimetry, Vol. 98 No 1: Nuclear Technology Publishing. p. 147.
- "SI units for ionizing radiation: becquerel". Resolutions of the 15th CGPM (Resolution 8). 1975. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- "Nist Special Publication 811, paragraph 5.2". NIST. Retrieved 22 March 2016.