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Uranium Carbide, UC2

Uranium Carbide, UC2, was first prepared by Moissan by heating together urano-uranic oxide (50 parts) and sugar charcoal (6 parts) in the electric furnace. By employing a current of 900 amperes and 50 volts, the reaction was complete in five minutes, and the fused mass on cooling yielded a lustrous, crystalline solid, of density 11.28 at 18° C. It may also be obtained by fusing the requisite quantities of uranous oxide and carbon in a Ruff electric vacuum furnace. The formula U2C3 was given to the product by Moissan, but by careful analysis and metallographic investigation it has been shown that the composition is correctly expressed by the formula UC2. The carbide is harder than quartz, but not so hard as corundum. It is often pyrophoric, and is readily oxidised; it inflames readily on crushing in an agate mortar, and will emit sparks when merely shaken in a strong glass vessel or when two pieces of the carbide are rubbed together. It melts at a temperature somewhat above 2250° C. It is attacked by fluorine at low temperatures, yielding uranous fluoride, but if a little chlorine is also present, the product is uranic fluoride, UF6. It reacts with chlorine at 350° C.; with bromine at 390° C.; with iodine below red heat; with nitrogen, yielding nitride, at 1100° C. It burns readily in oxygen at 370° C., forming the green oxide.

Uranium carbide is decomposed by water. The reaction proceeds slowly, and a mixture of solid, liquid, and gaseous hydrocarbons is produced. The gaseous product, which accounts for about one-third of the carbon present, consists of a mixture of the lower paraffin and olefine hydrocarbons, with a little acetylene, and from 30 to 60 per cent, of free hydrogen. The carbide is attacked by dilute mineral acids in the cold; by concentrated acids on warming. Nitric acid decomposes it most readily. Hydrogen chloride and hydrogen sulphide react at about 600° C. Uranium carbide is used as a catalyst in the synthetic production of ammonia.

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