Californium is not found in nature. Researchers at Berkeley produced this radioactive element by bombarding curium-242 atoms with helium ions, which caused the curium to decay into a new element. A neutral atom of californium has 98 protons and 98 electrons. The most stable isotope of californium, californium-251, has a half-life of nearly 900 years.
Californium has several practical applications. Some scientists use the element as a neutron source for a process called neutron activation. This process makes it easier to identify silver and gold ores. Californium is also used in neutron moisture gauges. These gauges are used in the oil and gas industry.Learn more about Atoms & Molecules