What Does Plutonium Taste Like?

March 11, 2024
David Sunnyside

While some may be interested to know what plutonium tastes like, this is one of those dangerous experiments that we recommend you leave alone. Plutonium, along with all other transuranic elements, is a radiological hazard and needs to be handled only with extreme caution and safety protocols. Inhaling or ingesting it can cause significant health problems, including radiation sickness and increased risk of cancer in later life.

In a 1944 experiment during the Manhattan Project, American chemist Donald Mastick accidentally had some plutonium chloride dissolved in acid spill into his mouth. He described the taste as a mix of acidity and metallic flavor. This wasn't an ideal situation for Mastick—his salivary glands were going haywire, and his urine contained traces of plutonium for years after the incident. He had to undergo gastric lavage several times, and the contents of his stomach were recovered for use in future experiments.

When plutonium is in a solid state, it has a silvery appearance and a metallic taste. It can also be mixed with other metals to form alloys and compounds, some of which are superconductive or used for nuclear fuel pellets. Plutonium is warm to the touch, and larger pieces will produce enough heat to boil water.

Glenn Seaborg discovered plutonium in 1940 and opted to name it after the planet Pluto. It was a bit of a joke, but the element’s discoverers are allowed to choose their own abbreviated symbol for inclusion on the periodic table.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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