Fermium is a synthetic element with symbol Fm and atomic number 100. It is an actinide and the heaviest element that can be formed by neutron bombardment of lighter elements, and hence the last element that can be prepared in macroscopic quantities, although pure fermium metal has not yet been prepared.[2] A total of 19 isotopes are known, with 257Fm being the longest-lived with a half-life of 100.5 days.

It was discovered in the debris of the first hydrogen bomb explosion in 1952, and named after Enrico Fermi, one of the pioneers of nuclear physics. Its chemistry is typical for the late actinides, with a preponderance of the +3 oxidation state but also an accessible +2 oxidation state. Owing to the small amounts of produced fermium and all of its isotopes having relatively short half-lives, there are currently no uses for it outside basic scientific research.

Fermium,  100Fm
Pronunciation/ˈfɜːrmiəm/ (FUR-mee-əm)
Mass number257 (most stable isotope)
Fermium in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Atomic number (Z)100
Groupgroup n/a
Periodperiod 7
Element category  actinide
Electron configuration[Rn] 5f12 7s2
Electrons per shell
2, 8, 18, 32, 30, 8, 2
Physical properties
Phase at STPunknown phase (predicted)
Melting point1800 K ​(1527 °C, ​2781 °F) (predicted)
Density (near r.t.)9.7(1) g/cm3 (predicted)[1]
Atomic properties
Oxidation states+2, +3
ElectronegativityPauling scale: 1.3
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 627 kJ/mol
  • (estimated)
Other properties
Natural occurrencesynthetic
Crystal structureface-centered cubic (fcc)
Face-centered cubic crystal structure for fermium

CAS Number7440-72-4
Namingafter Enrico Fermi
DiscoveryLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1952)
Main isotopes of fermium
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
252Fm syn 25.39 h SF
α 248Cf
253Fm syn 3 d ε 253Es
α 249Cf
255Fm syn 20.07 h SF
α 251Cf
257Fm syn 100.5 d α 253Cf


Ivy Mike - mushroom cloud
Fermium was first observed in the fallout from the Ivy Mike nuclear test.
Enrico Fermi 1943-49
The element was named after Enrico Fermi.
Albert Ghiorso ca 1970
The element was discovered by a team headed by Albert Ghiorso.

Fermium was first discovered in the fallout from the 'Ivy Mike' nuclear test (1 November 1952), the first successful test of a hydrogen bomb.[3][4][5] Initial examination of the debris from the explosion had shown the production of a new isotope of plutonium, 244
: this could only have formed by the absorption of six neutrons by a uranium-238 nucleus followed by two β decays. At the time, the absorption of neutrons by a heavy nucleus was thought to be a rare process, but the identification of 244
raised the possibility that still more neutrons could have been absorbed by the uranium nuclei, leading to new elements.[5]

Element 99 (einsteinium) was quickly discovered on filter papers which had been flown through the cloud from the explosion (the same sampling technique that had been used to discover 244
).[5] It was then identified in December 1952 by Albert Ghiorso and co-workers at the University of California at Berkeley.[3][4][5] They discovered the isotope 253Es (half-life 20.5 days) that was made by the capture of 15 neutrons by uranium-238 nuclei – which then underwent seven successive beta decays:


Some 238U atoms, however, could capture another amount of neutrons (most likely, 16 or 17).

The discovery of fermium (Z = 100) required more material, as the yield was expected to be at least an order of magnitude lower than that of element 99, and so contaminated coral from the Enewetak atoll (where the test had taken place) was shipped to the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, California, for processing and analysis. About two months after the test, a new component was isolated emitting high-energy α-particles (7.1 MeV) with a half-life of about a day. With such a short half-life, it could only arise from the β decay of an isotope of einsteinium, and so had to be an isotope of the new element 100: it was quickly identified as 255Fm (t = 20.07(7) hours).[5]

The discovery of the new elements, and the new data on neutron capture, was initially kept secret on the orders of the U.S. military until 1955 due to Cold War tensions.[5][6][7] Nevertheless, the Berkeley team was able to prepare elements 99 and 100 by civilian means, through the neutron bombardment of plutonium-239, and published this work in 1954 with the disclaimer that it was not the first studies that had been carried out on the elements.[8][9] The "Ivy Mike" studies were declassified and published in 1955.[6]

The Berkeley team had been worried that another group might discover lighter isotopes of element 100 through ion-bombardment techniques before they could publish their classified research,[5] and this proved to be the case. A group at the Nobel Institute for Physics in Stockholm independently discovered the element, producing an isotope later confirmed to be 250Fm (t1/2 = 30 minutes) by bombarding a 238
target with oxygen-16 ions, and published their work in May 1954.[10] Nevertheless, the priority of the Berkeley team was generally recognized, and with it the prerogative to name the new element in honour of the recently deceased Enrico Fermi, the developer of the first artificial self-sustained nuclear reactor.


Decay of Fermium-257
Decay pathway of fermium-257

There are 20 isotopes of fermium listed in NUBASE 2016,[11] with atomic weights of 241 to 260,[Note 1] of which 257Fm is the longest-lived with a half-life of 100.5 days. 253Fm has a half-life of 3 days, while 251Fm of 5.3 h, 252Fm of 25.4 h, 254Fm of 3.2 h, 255Fm of 20.1 h, and 256Fm of 2.6 hours. All the remaining ones have half-lives ranging from 30 minutes to less than a millisecond.[12] The neutron-capture product of fermium-257, 258Fm, undergoes spontaneous fission with a half-life of just 370(14) microseconds; 259Fm and 260Fm are also unstable with respect to spontaneous fission (t1/2 = 1.5(3) s and 4 ms respectively).[12] This means that neutron capture cannot be used to create nuclides with a mass number greater than 257, unless carried out in a nuclear explosion. As 257Fm is an α-emitter, decaying to 253Cf, and no known fermium isotopes undergo beta minus decay to the next element, mendelevium, fermium is also the last element that can be prepared by a neutron-capture process.[2][13][14] Because of this impediment in forming heavier isotopes, these short-lived isotopes 258-260Fm constitute the so-called "fermium gap."[15]


Elutionskurven Fm Es Cf Bk Cm Am
Elution: chromatographic separation of Fm(100), Es(99), Cf, Bk, Cm and Am

Fermium is produced by the bombardment of lighter actinides with neutrons in a nuclear reactor. Fermium-257 is the heaviest isotope that is obtained via neutron capture, and can only be produced in picogram quantities.[Note 2][16] The major source is the 85 MW High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, USA, which is dedicated to the production of transcurium (Z > 96) elements.[17] Lower mass fermium isotopes are available in greater quantities, however, these isotopes (254 and 255) are very short lived. In a "typical processing campaign" at Oak Ridge, tens of grams of curium are irradiated to produce decigram quantities of californium, milligram quantities of berkelium and einsteinium and picogram quantities of fermium.[18] However, nanogram[19] quantities of fermium can be prepared for specific experiments. The quantities of fermium produced in 20–200 kiloton thermonuclear explosions is believed to be of the order of milligrams, although it is mixed in with a huge quantity of debris; 4.0 picograms of 257Fm was recovered from 10 kilograms of debris from the "Hutch" test (16 July 1969).[20] The Hutch experiment produced an estimated total of 250 micrograms of 257Fm.

After production, the fermium must be separated from other actinides and from lanthanide fission products. This is usually achieved by ion-exchange chromatography, with the standard process using a cation exchanger such as Dowex 50 or TEVA eluted with a solution of ammonium α-hydroxyisobutyrate.[2][21] Smaller cations form more stable complexes with the α-hydroxyisobutyrate anion, and so are preferentially eluted from the column.[2] A rapid fractional crystallization method has also been described.[2][22]

Although the most stable isotope of fermium is 257Fm, with a half-life of 100.5 days, most studies are conducted on 255Fm (t1/2 = 20.07(7) hours), since this isotope can be easily isolated as required as the decay product of 255Es (t1/2 = 39.8(12) days).[2]

Synthesis in nuclear explosions

The analysis of the debris at the 10-megaton Ivy Mike nuclear test was a part of long-term project, one of the goals of which was studying the efficiency of production of transuranium elements in high-power nuclear explosions. The motivation for these experiments was as follows: synthesis of such elements from uranium requires multiple neutron capture. The probability of such events increases with the neutron flux, and nuclear explosions are the most powerful neutron sources, providing densities of the order 1023 neutrons/cm2 within a microsecond, i.e. about 1029 neutrons/(cm2·s). In comparison, the flux of the HFIR reactor is 5×1015 neutrons/(cm2·s). A dedicated laboratory was set up right at Enewetak Atoll for preliminary analysis of debris, as some isotopes could have decayed by the time the debris samples reached the U.S. The laboratory was receiving samples for analysis, as soon as possible, from airplanes equipped with paper filters which flew over the atoll after the tests. Whereas it was hoped to discover new chemical elements heavier than fermium, those were not found after a series of megaton explosions conducted between 1954 and 1956 at the atoll.[23]

Estimated yield of transuranium elements in the U.S. nuclear tests Hutch and Cyclamen.[24]

The atmospheric results were supplemented by the underground test data accumulated in the 1960s at the Nevada Test Site, as it was hoped that powerful explosions conducted in confined space might result in improved yields and heavier isotopes. Apart from traditional uranium charges, combinations of uranium with americium and thorium have been tried, as well as a mixed plutonium-neptunium charge. They were less successful in terms of yield that was attributed to stronger losses of heavy isotopes due to enhanced fission rates in heavy-element charges. Isolation of the products was found to be rather problematic, as the explosions were spreading debris through melting and vaporizing rocks under the great depth of 300–600 meters, and drilling to such depth in order to extract the products was both slow and inefficient in terms of collected volumes.[23][24]

Among the nine underground tests, which were carried between 1962 and 1969 and codenamed Anacostia (5.2 kilotons, 1962), Kennebec (<5 kilotons, 1963), Par (38 kilotons, 1964), Barbel (<20 kilotons, 1964), Tweed (<20 kilotons, 1965), Cyclamen (13 kilotons, 1966), Kankakee (20-200 kilotons, 1966), Vulcan (25 kilotons, 1966) and Hutch (20-200 kilotons, 1969),[25] the last one was most powerful and had the highest yield of transuranium elements. In the dependence on the atomic mass number, the yield showed a saw-tooth behavior with the lower values for odd isotopes, due to their higher fission rates.[24] The major practical problem of the entire proposal was however collecting the radioactive debris dispersed by the powerful blast. Aircraft filters adsorbed only about 4×1014 of the total amount and collection of tons of corals at Enewetak Atoll increased this fraction by only two orders of magnitude. Extraction of about 500 kilograms of underground rocks 60 days after the Hutch explosion recovered only about 10−7 of the total charge. The amount of transuranium elements in this 500-kg batch was only 30 times higher than in a 0.4 kg rock picked up 7 days after the test. This observation demonstrated the highly nonlinear dependence of the transuranium elements yield on the amount of retrieved radioactive rock.[26] In order to accelerate sample collection after explosion, shafts were drilled at the site not after but before the test, so that explosion would expel radioactive material from the epicenter, through the shafts, to collecting volumes near the surface. This method was tried in the Anacostia and Kennebec tests and instantly provided hundreds kilograms of material, but with actinide concentration 3 times lower than in samples obtained after drilling; whereas such method could have been efficient in scientific studies of short-lived isotopes, it could not improve the overall collection efficiency of the produced actinides.[27]

Although no new elements (apart from einsteinium and fermium) could be detected in the nuclear test debris, and the total yields of transuranium elements were disappointingly low, these tests did provide significantly higher amounts of rare heavy isotopes than previously available in laboratories. So 6×109 atoms of 257Fm could be recovered after the Hutch detonation. They were then used in the studies of thermal-neutron induced fission of 257Fm and in discovery of a new fermium isotope 258Fm. Also, the rare 250Cm isotope was synthesized in large quantities, which is very difficult to produce in nuclear reactors from its progenitor 249Cm – the half-life of 249Cm (64 minutes) is much too short for months-long reactor irradiations, but is very "long" on the explosion timescale.[28]

Natural occurrence

Because of the short half-life of all isotopes of fermium, any primordial fermium, that is fermium that could be present on the Earth during its formation, has decayed by now. Synthesis of fermium from naturally occurring actinides uranium and thorium in the Earth crust requires multiple neutron capture, which is an extremely unlikely event. Therefore, most fermium is produced on Earth in scientific laboratories, high-power nuclear reactors, or in nuclear weapons tests, and is present only within a few months from the time of the synthesis. The transuranic elements from americium to fermium did occur naturally in the natural nuclear fission reactor at Oklo, but no longer do so.[29]


Fermium-Ytterbium Alloy
A fermium-ytterbium alloy used for measuring the enthalpy of vaporization of fermium metal

The chemistry of fermium has only been studied in solution using tracer techniques, and no solid compounds have been prepared. Under normal conditions, fermium exists in solution as the Fm3+ ion, which has a hydration number of 16.9 and an acid dissociation constant of 1.6×10−4 (pKa = 3.8).[30][31] Fm3+ forms complexes with a wide variety of organic ligands with hard donor atoms such as oxygen, and these complexes are usually more stable than those of the preceding actinides.[2] It also forms anionic complexes with ligands such as chloride or nitrate and, again, these complexes appear to be more stable than those formed by einsteinium or californium.[32] It is believed that the bonding in the complexes of the later actinides is mostly ionic in character: the Fm3+ ion is expected to be smaller than the preceding An3+ ions because of the higher effective nuclear charge of fermium, and hence fermium would be expected to form shorter and stronger metal–ligand bonds.[2]

Fermium(III) can be fairly easily reduced to fermium(II),[33] for example with samarium(II) chloride, with which fermium(II) coprecipitates.[34][35] The electrode potential has been estimated to be similar to that of the ytterbium(III)/(II) couple, or about −1.15 V with respect to the standard hydrogen electrode,[36] a value which agrees with theoretical calculations.[37] The Fm2+/Fm0 couple has an electrode potential of −2.37(10) V based on polarographic measurements.[38]


Although few people come in contact with fermium, the International Commission on Radiological Protection has set annual exposure limits for the two most stable isotopes. For fermium-253, the ingestion limit was set at 107 becquerels (1 Bq is equivalent to one decay per second), and the inhalation limit at 105 Bq; for fermium-257, at 105 Bq and 4000 Bq respectively.[39]

Notes and references


  1. ^ The discovery of 260Fm is considered "unproven" in NUBASE 2003.[12]
  2. ^ All isotopes of elements Z > 100 can only be produced by accelerator-based nuclear reactions with charged particles and can be obtained only in tracer quantities (e.g., 1 million atoms for Md (Z = 101) per hour of irradiation (see reference 1 below)).


  1. ^ a b Fournier, Jean-Marc (1976). "Bonding and the electronic structure of the actinide metals". Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids. 37 (2): 235–244. Bibcode:1976JPCS...37..235F. doi:10.1016/0022-3697(76)90167-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Silva, Robert J. (2006). "Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium, and Lawrencium" (PDF). In Morss, Lester R.; Edelstein, Norman M.; Fuger, Jean. The Chemistry of the Actinide and Transactinide Elements. 3 (3rd ed.). Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 1621–1651. doi:10.1007/1-4020-3598-5_13. ISBN 978-1-4020-3555-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-17.
  3. ^ a b "Einsteinium". Archived from the original on 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
  4. ^ a b Fermium – National Research Council Canada Archived 2010-12-25 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2 December 2007
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ghiorso, Albert (2003). "Einsteinium and Fermium". Chemical and Engineering News. 81 (36): 174–175. doi:10.1021/cen-v081n036.p174.
  6. ^ a b Ghiorso, A.; Thompson, S.; Higgins, G.; Seaborg, Glenn T.; Studier, M.; Fields, P.; Fried, S.; Diamond, H.; et al. (1955). "New Elements Einsteinium and Fermium, Atomic Numbers 99 and 100". Phys. Rev. 99 (3): 1048–1049. Bibcode:1955PhRv...99.1048G. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.99.1048.
  7. ^ Fields, P. R.; Studier, M. H.; Diamond, H.; Mech, J. F.; Inghram, M. G. Pyle, G. L.; Stevens, C. M.; Fried, S.; Manning, W. M. (Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, Illinois); Ghiorso, A.; Thompson, S. G.; Higgins, G. H.; Seaborg, G. T. (University of California, Berkeley, California): "Transplutonium Elements in Thermonuclear Test Debris", in: Fields, P.; Studier, M.; Diamond, H.; Mech, J.; Inghram, M.; Pyle, G.; Stevens, C.; Fried, S.; Manning, W.; Ghiorso, A.; Thompson, S.; Higgins, G.; Seaborg, G. (1956). "Transplutonium Elements in Thermonuclear Test Debris". Physical Review. 102 (1): 180. Bibcode:1956PhRv..102..180F. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.102.180.
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  9. ^ Choppin, G. R.; Thompson, S. G.; Ghiorso, A.; Harvey, B. G. (1954). "Nuclear Properties of Some Isotopes of Californium, Elements 99 and 100". Physical Review. 94 (4): 1080–1081. Bibcode:1954PhRv...94.1080C. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.94.1080.
  10. ^ Atterling, Hugo; Forsling, Wilhelm; Holm, Lennart W.; Melander, Lars; Åström, Björn (1954). "Element 100 Produced by Means of Cyclotron-Accelerated Oxygen Ions". Physical Review. 95 (2): 585–586. Bibcode:1954PhRv...95..585A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.95.585.2.
  11. ^ Audi, G.; Kondev, F.G.; Wang, M.; Huang, W.J.; Naimi, S. (2017). "The NUBASE2016 evaluation of nuclear properties" (PDF). Chinese Physics C. 41 (3): 030001. doi:10.1088/1674-1137/41/3/030001.
  12. ^ a b c Audi, Georges; Bersillon, Olivier; Blachot, Jean; Wapstra, Aaldert Hendrik (2003), "The NUBASE evaluation of nuclear and decay properties", Nuclear Physics A, 729: 3–128, Bibcode:2003NuPhA.729....3A, doi:10.1016/j.nuclphysa.2003.11.001
  13. ^ Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1984). Chemistry of the Elements. Oxford: Pergamon Press. p. 1262. ISBN 0-08-022057-6.
  14. ^ Sonzogni, Alejandro. "Interactive Chart of Nuclides". National Nuclear Data Center: Brookhaven National Laboratory. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
  15. ^ Zagrebaev, Valeriy; Karpov, Alexander; Greiner, Walter (2013). "Future of superheavy element research: Which nuclei could be synthesized within the next few years?" (PDF). Journal of Physics. 420: 012001. arXiv:1207.5700. doi:10.1088/1742-6596/420/1/012001.
  16. ^ Luig, Heribert; Keller, Cornelius; Wolf, Walter; Shani, Jashovam; Miska, Horst; Zyball, Alfred; Gervé, Andreas; Balaban, Alexandru T.; Kellerer, Albrecht M.; Griebel, Jürgen (2000). "Radionuclides". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a22_499. ISBN 978-3527306732.
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  18. ^ Porter, C. E.; Riley, F. D., Jr.; Vandergrift, R. D.; Felker, L. K. (1997). "Fermium Purification Using Teva Resin Extraction Chromatography". Sep. Sci. Technol. 32 (1–4): 83–92. doi:10.1080/01496399708003188.
  19. ^ Sewtz, M.; Backe, H.; Dretzke, A.; Kube, G.; Lauth, W.; Schwamb, P.; Eberhardt, K.; Grüning, C.; Thörle, P.; Trautmann, N.; Kunz, P.; Lassen, J.; Passler, G.; Dong, C.; Fritzsche, S.; Haire, R. (2003). "First Observation of Atomic Levels for the Element Fermium (Z=100)". Phys. Rev. Lett. 90 (16): 163002. Bibcode:2003PhRvL..90p3002S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.90.163002. PMID 12731975.
  20. ^ Hoff, R. W.; Hulet, E. K. (1970). "Engineering with Nuclear Explosives". 2: 1283–1294.
  21. ^ Choppin, G. R.; Harvey, B. G.; Thompson, S. G. (1956). "A new eluant for the separation of the actinide elements". J. Inorg. Nucl. Chem. 2 (1): 66–68. doi:10.1016/0022-1902(56)80105-X.
  22. ^ Mikheev, N. B.; Kamenskaya, A. N.; Konovalova, N. A.; Rumer, I. A.; Kulyukhin, S. A. (1983). "High-speed method for the separation of fermium from actinides and lanthanides". Radiokhimiya. 25 (2): 158–161.
  23. ^ a b Seaborg, p. 39
  24. ^ a b c Seaborg, p. 40
  25. ^ United States Nuclear Tests July 1945 through September 1992 Archived June 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, DOE/NV--209-REV 15, December 2000
  26. ^ Seaborg, p. 43
  27. ^ Seaborg, p. 44
  28. ^ Seaborg, p. 47
  29. ^ Emsley, John (2011). Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements (New ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960563-7.
  30. ^ Lundqvist, Robert; Hulet, E. K.; Baisden, T. A.; Näsäkkälä, Elina; Wahlberg, Olof (1981). "Electromigration Method in Tracer Studies of Complex Chemistry. II. Hydrated Radii and Hydration Numbers of Trivalent Actinides". Acta Chemica Scandinavica A. 35: 653–661. doi:10.3891/acta.chem.scand.35a-0653.
  31. ^ Hussonnois, H.; Hubert, S.; Aubin, L.; Guillaumont, R.; Boussieres, G. (1972). Radiochem. Radioanal. Lett. 10: 231–238. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ Thompson, S. G.; Harvey, B. G.; Choppin, G. R.; Seaborg, G. T. (1954). "Chemical Properties of Elements 99 and 100". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 76 (24): 6229–6236. doi:10.1021/ja01653a004.
  33. ^ Malý, Jaromír (1967). "The amalgamation behaviour of heavy elements 1. Observation of anomalous preference in formation of amalgams of californium, einsteinium, and fermium". Inorg. Nucl. Chem. Lett. 3 (9): 373–381. doi:10.1016/0020-1650(67)80046-1.
  34. ^ Mikheev, N. B.; Spitsyn, V. I.; Kamenskaya, A. N.; Gvozdec, B. A.; Druin, V. A.; Rumer, I. A.; Dyachkova, R. A.; Rozenkevitch, N. A.; Auerman, L. N. (1972). "Reduction of fermium to divalent state in chloride aqueous ethanolic solutions". Inorg. Nucl. Chem. Lett. 8 (11): 929–936. doi:10.1016/0020-1650(72)80202-2.
  35. ^ Hulet, E. K.; Lougheed, R. W.; Baisden, P. A.; Landrum, J. H.; Wild, J. F.; Lundqvist, R. F. (1979). "Non-observance of monovalent Md". J. Inorg. Nucl. Chem. 41 (12): 1743–1747. doi:10.1016/0022-1902(79)80116-5.
  36. ^ Mikheev, N. B.; Spitsyn, V. I.; Kamenskaya, A. N.; Konovalova, N. A.; Rumer, I. A.; Auerman, L. N.; Podorozhnyi, A. M. (1977). "Determination of oxidation potential of the pair Fm2+/Fm3+". Inorg. Nucl. Chem. Lett. 13 (12): 651–656. doi:10.1016/0020-1650(77)80074-3.
  37. ^ Nugent, L. J. (1975). MTP Int. Rev. Sci.: Inorg. Chem., Ser. One. 7: 195–219. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ Samhoun, K.; David, F.; Hahn, R. L.; O'Kelley, G. D.; Tarrant, J. R.; Hobart, D. E. (1979). "Electrochemical study of mendelevium in aqueous solution: No evidence for monovalent ions". J. Inorg. Nucl. Chem. 41 (12): 1749–1754. doi:10.1016/0022-1902(79)80117-7.
  39. ^ Koch, Lothar (2000). "Transuranium Elements". Transuranium Elements, in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Wiley. doi:10.1002/14356007.a27_167. ISBN 978-3527306732.

Further reading

External links


The actinide or actinoid (IUPAC nomenclature) series encompasses the 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers from 89 to 103, actinium through lawrencium.Strictly speaking, both actinium and lawrencium have been labeled as group 3 elements, but both elements are often included in any general discussion of the chemistry of the actinide elements. Actinium is the more often omitted of the two, because its placement as a group 3 element is somewhat more common in texts and for semantic reasons: since "actinide" means "like actinium", it has been argued that actinium cannot logically be an actinide, even though IUPAC acknowledges its inclusion based on common usage.The actinide series derives its name from the first element in the series, actinium. The informal chemical symbol An is used in general discussions of actinide chemistry to refer to any actinide. All but one of the actinides are f-block elements, with the exception being either actinium or lawrencium. The series mostly corresponds to the filling of the 5f electron shell, although actinium and thorium lack any f-electrons, and curium and lawrencium have the same number as the preceding element. In comparison with the lanthanides, also mostly f-block elements, the actinides show much more variable valence. They all have very large atomic and ionic radii and exhibit an unusually large range of physical properties. While actinium and the late actinides (from americium onwards) behave similarly to the lanthanides, the elements thorium, protactinium, and uranium are much more similar to transition metals in their chemistry, with neptunium and plutonium occupying an intermediate position.

All actinides are radioactive and release energy upon radioactive decay; naturally occurring uranium and thorium, and synthetically produced plutonium are the most abundant actinides on Earth. These are used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Uranium and thorium also have diverse current or historical uses, and americium is used in the ionization chambers of most modern smoke detectors.

Of the actinides, primordial thorium and uranium occur naturally in substantial quantities. The radioactive decay of uranium produces transient amounts of actinium and protactinium, and atoms of neptunium and plutonium are occasionally produced from transmutation reactions in uranium ores. The other actinides are purely synthetic elements. Nuclear weapons tests have released at least six actinides heavier than plutonium into the environment; analysis of debris from a 1952 hydrogen bomb explosion showed the presence of americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium and fermium.In presentations of the periodic table, the lanthanides and the actinides are customarily shown as two additional rows below the main body of the table, with placeholders or else a selected single element of each series (either lanthanum or lutetium, and either actinium or lawrencium, respectively) shown in a single cell of the main table, between barium and hafnium, and radium and rutherfordium, respectively. This convention is entirely a matter of aesthetics and formatting practicality; a rarely used wide-formatted periodic table inserts the lanthanide and actinide series in their proper places, as parts of the table's sixth and seventh rows (periods).

Albert Ghiorso

Albert Ghiorso (July 15, 1915 – December 26, 2010) was an American nuclear scientist and co-discoverer of a record 12 chemical elements on the periodic table. His research career spanned six decades, from the early 1940s to the late 1990s.


Einsteinium is a synthetic element with symbol Es and atomic number 99. A member of the actinide series, it is the seventh transuranic element.

Einsteinium was discovered as a component of the debris of the first hydrogen bomb explosion in 1952, and named after Albert Einstein. Its most common isotope einsteinium-253 (half-life 20.47 days) is produced artificially from decay of californium-253 in a few dedicated high-power nuclear reactors with a total yield on the order of one milligram per year. The reactor synthesis is followed by a complex process of separating einsteinium-253 from other actinides and products of their decay. Other isotopes are synthesized in various laboratories, but at much smaller amounts, by bombarding heavy actinide elements with light ions. Owing to the small amounts of produced einsteinium and the short half-life of its most easily produced isotope, there are currently almost no practical applications for it outside basic scientific research. In particular, einsteinium was used to synthesize, for the first time, 17 atoms of the new element mendelevium in 1955.

Einsteinium is a soft, silvery, paramagnetic metal. Its chemistry is typical of the late actinides, with a preponderance of the +3 oxidation state; the +2 oxidation state is also accessible, especially in solids. The high radioactivity of einsteinium-253 produces a visible glow and rapidly damages its crystalline metal lattice, with released heat of about 1000 watts per gram. Difficulty in studying its properties is due to einsteinium-253's decay to berkelium-249 and then californium-249 at a rate of about 3% per day. The isotope of einsteinium with the longest half-life, einsteinium-252 (half-life 471.7 days) would be more suitable for investigation of physical properties, but it has proven far more difficult to produce and is available only in minute quantities, and not in bulk. Einsteinium is the element with the highest atomic number which has been observed in macroscopic quantities in its pure form, and this was the common short-lived isotope einsteinium-253.Like all synthetic transuranic elements, isotopes of einsteinium are very radioactive and are considered highly dangerous to health on ingestion.

Extended periodic table

An extended periodic table theorizes about chemical elements beyond those currently known in the periodic table and proven up through oganesson, which completes the seventh period (row) in the periodic table at atomic number (Z) 118.

If further elements with higher atomic numbers than this are discovered, they will be placed in additional periods, laid out (as with the existing periods) to illustrate periodically recurring trends in the properties of the elements concerned. Any additional periods are expected to contain a larger number of elements than the seventh period, as they are calculated to have an additional so-called g-block, containing at least 18 elements with partially filled g-orbitals in each period.An eight-period table containing this block was suggested by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1969. The first element of the g-block may have atomic number 121, and thus would have the systematic name unbiunium. Despite many searches, no elements in this region have been synthesized or discovered in nature.According to the orbital approximation in quantum mechanical descriptions of atomic structure, the g-block would correspond to elements with partially filled g-orbitals, but spin-orbit coupling effects reduce the validity of the orbital approximation substantially for elements of high atomic number. While Seaborg's version of the extended period had the heavier elements following the pattern set by lighter elements, as it did not take into account relativistic effects, models that take relativistic effects into account do not. Pekka Pyykkö and Burkhard Fricke used computer modeling to calculate the positions of elements up to Z = 172, and found that several were displaced from the Madelung rule. As a result of uncertainty and variability in predictions of chemical and physical properties of elements beyond 120, there is currently no consensus on their placement in the extended periodic table.

Elements in this region are likely to be highly unstable with respect to radioactive decay and undergo alpha decay or spontaneous fission with extremely short half-lives, though element 126 is hypothesized to be within an island of stability that is resistant to fission but not to alpha decay. Other islands of stability beyond the known elements may also be possible, including one theorized around element 164, though the extent of stabilizing effects from closed nuclear shells is uncertain. It is not clear how many elements beyond the expected island of stability are physically possible, whether period 8 is complete, or if there is a period 9. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) defines an element to exist if its lifetime is longer than 10−14 seconds (0.01 picoseconds, or 10 femtoseconds), which is the time it takes for the nucleus to form an electron cloud.As early as 1940, it was noted that a simplistic interpretation of the relativistic Dirac equation runs into problems with electron orbitals at Z > 1/α ≈ 137, suggesting that neutral atoms cannot exist beyond element 137, and that a periodic table of elements based on electron orbitals therefore breaks down at this point. On the other hand, a more rigorous analysis calculates the analogous limit to be Z ≈ 173 where the 1s subshell dives into the Dirac sea, and that it is instead not neutral atoms that cannot exist beyond element 173, but bare nuclei, thus posing no obstacle to the further extension of the periodic system. Atoms beyond this critical atomic number are called supercritical atoms.

Inorganic compounds by element

This is a list of common inorganic and organometallic compounds of each element. Compounds are listed alphabetically by their chemical element name rather than by symbol, as in list of inorganic compounds.

Isotopes of fermium

Fermium (100Fm) is a synthetic element, and thus a standard atomic weight cannot be given. Like all artificial elements, it has no stable isotopes. The first isotope to be discovered (in fallout from nuclear testing) was 255Fm in 1952. 250Fm was independently synthesized shortly after the discovery of 255Fm. There are 20 known radioisotopes ranging in atomic mass from 241Fm to 260Fm (260Fm is unconfirmed), and 2 nuclear isomers, 250mFm and 251mFm. The longest-lived isotope is 257Fm with a half-life of 100.5 days, and the longest-lived isomer is 250mFm with a half-life of 1.8 seconds.


Lawrencium is a synthetic chemical element with symbol Lr (formerly Lw) and atomic number 103. It is named in honor of Ernest Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron, a device that was used to discover many artificial radioactive elements. A radioactive metal, lawrencium is the eleventh transuranic element and is also the final member of the actinide series. Like all elements with atomic number over 100, lawrencium can only be produced in particle accelerators by bombarding lighter elements with charged particles. Twelve isotopes of lawrencium are currently known; the most stable is 266Lr with a half-life of 11 hours, but the shorter-lived 260Lr (half-life 2.7 minutes) is most commonly used in chemistry because it can be produced on a larger scale.

Chemistry experiments have confirmed that lawrencium behaves as a heavier homolog to lutetium in the periodic table, and is a trivalent element. It thus could also be classified as the first of the 7th-period transition metals: however, its electron configuration is anomalous for its position in the periodic table, having an s2p configuration instead of the s2d configuration of its homolog lutetium. This means that lawrencium may be more volatile than expected for its position in the periodic table and have a volatility comparable to that of lead.

In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, many claims of the synthesis of lawrencium of varying quality were made from laboratories in the Soviet Union and the United States. The priority of the discovery and therefore the naming of the element was disputed between Soviet and American scientists, and while the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) initially established lawrencium as the official name for the element and gave the American team credit for the discovery, this was reevaluated in 1997, giving both teams shared credit for the discovery but not changing the element's name.

List of radioactive isotopes by half-life

This is a list of radioactive isotopes ordered by half-life from shortest to longest.

List of things named after Glenn T. Seaborg

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Glenn T. Seaborg is known for his considerable legacy. At one time, Seaborg was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest entry in Marquis Who's Who. Glenn T. Seaborg's legacy was cemented with the naming of element 106 as seaborgium in his honor.

He is the first of two individuals (the other being Yuri Oganessian) to have had an element named after them during their lifetime (the names einsteinium and fermium were proposed when Einstein and Fermi were alive, but were not approved until after their deaths).

The list of things named after Glenn T. Seaborg below supplements his biographical entry.

Major actinide

Major actinides is a term used in the nuclear power industry that refers to the plutonium and uranium present in used nuclear fuel, as opposed to the minor actinides neptunium, americium, curium, berkelium, and californium.


Mendelevium is a synthetic element with chemical symbol Md (formerly Mv) and atomic number 101. A metallic radioactive transuranic element in the actinide series, it is the first element that currently cannot be produced in macroscopic quantities through neutron bombardment of lighter elements. It is the third-to-last actinide and the ninth transuranic element. It can only be produced in particle accelerators by bombarding lighter elements with charged particles. A total of sixteen mendelevium isotopes are known, the most stable being 258Md with a half-life of 51 days; nevertheless, the shorter-lived 256Md (half-life 1.17 hours) is most commonly used in chemistry because it can be produced on a larger scale.

Mendelevium was discovered by bombarding einsteinium with alpha particles in 1955, the same method still used to produce it today. It was named after Dmitri Mendeleev, father of the periodic table of the chemical elements. Using available microgram quantities of the isotope einsteinium-253, over a million mendelevium atoms may be produced each hour. The chemistry of mendelevium is typical for the late actinides, with a preponderance of the +3 oxidation state but also an accessible +2 oxidation state. Owing to the small amounts of produced mendelevium and all of its isotopes having relatively short half-lives, there are currently no uses for it outside basic scientific research.

Minor actinide

The minor actinides are the actinide elements in used nuclear fuel other than uranium and plutonium, which are termed the major actinides. The minor actinides include neptunium (element 93), americium (element 95), curium (element 96), berkelium (element 97), californium (element 98), einsteinium (element 99), and fermium (element 100). The most important isotopes in spent nuclear fuel are neptunium-237, americium-241, americium-243, curium-242 through -248, and californium-249 through -252.

Plutonium and the minor actinides will be responsible for the bulk of the radiotoxicity and heat generation of used nuclear fuel in the medium term (300 to 20,000 years in the future).The plutonium from a power reactor tends to have a greater amount of Pu-241 than the plutonium generated by the lower burnup operations designed to create weapons-grade plutonium. Because the reactor-grade plutonium contains so much Pu-241 the presence of americium-241 makes the plutonium less suitable for making a nuclear weapon. The ingrowth of americium in plutonium is one of the methods for identifying the origin of an unknown sample of plutonium and the time since it was last separated chemically from the americium.

Americium is commonly used in industry as both an alpha particle and as a low photon energy gamma radiation source. For instance it is used in many smoke detectors. Americium can be formed by neutron capture of Pu-239 and Pu-240 forming Pu-241 which then beta decays to Am-241. In general, as the energy of the neutrons increases, the ratio of the fission cross section to the neutron capture cross section changes in favour of fission. Hence if MOX is used in a thermal reactor such as a boiling water reactor (BWR) or pressurized water reactor (PWR) then more americium can be expected in the used fuel than that from a fast neutron reactor.Some of the minor actinides have been found in fallout from bomb tests. See Actinides in the environment for details.


Nobelium is a synthetic chemical element with symbol No and atomic number 102. It is named in honor of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and benefactor of science. A radioactive metal, it is the tenth transuranic element and is the penultimate member of the actinide series. Like all elements with atomic number over 100, nobelium can only be produced in particle accelerators by bombarding lighter elements with charged particles. A total of twelve nobelium isotopes are known to exist; the most stable is 259No with a half-life of 58 minutes, but the shorter-lived 255No (half-life 3.1 minutes) is most commonly used in chemistry because it can be produced on a larger scale.

Chemistry experiments have confirmed that nobelium behaves as a heavier homolog to ytterbium in the periodic table. The chemical properties of nobelium are not completely known: they are mostly only known in aqueous solution. Before nobelium's discovery, it was predicted that it would show a stable +2 oxidation state as well as the +3 state characteristic of the other actinides: these predictions were later confirmed, as the +2 state is much more stable than the +3 state in aqueous solution and it is difficult to keep nobelium in the +3 state.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many claims of the discovery of nobelium were made from laboratories in Sweden, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Although the Swedish scientists soon retracted their claims, the priority of the discovery and therefore the naming of the element was disputed between Soviet and American scientists, and it was not until 1997 that International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) credited the Soviet team with the discovery, but retained nobelium, the Swedish proposal, as the name of the element due to its long-standing use in the literature.

Period 7 element

A period 7 element is one of the chemical elements in the seventh row (or period) of the periodic table of the chemical elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring (periodic) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that elements with similar behaviour fall into the same vertical columns. The seventh period contains 32 elements, tied for the most with period 6, beginning with francium and ending with oganesson, the heaviest element currently discovered. As a rule, period 7 elements fill their 7s shells first, then their 5f, 6d, and 7p shells, in that order; however, there are exceptions, such as plutonium.


The rapid neutron-capture process, or so-called r-process, is a set of nuclear reactions that in nuclear astrophysics is responsible for the creation (nucleosynthesis) of approximately half the abundances of the atomic nuclei heavier than iron, usually synthesizing the entire abundance of the two most neutron-rich stable isotopes of each heavy element. Chemical elements heavier than iron typically are enabled by the force between nucleons to be capable of six to ten stable isotopic forms having the same nuclear charge Z but differing in neutron number N, each of whose natural abundances contribute to the natural abundance of the chemical element. Each isotope is characterized by the number of neutrons that it contains. The r-process typically synthesizes new nuclei of the heaviest four isotopes of any heavy element, being totally responsible for the abundances of its two heaviest isotopes, which are referred to as r-only nuclei. The most abundant of these contribute to the r-process abundance peaks near atomic weights A = 82 (elements Se, Br and Kr), A = 130 (elements Te, I, and Xe) and A = 196 (elements Os, Ir and Pt).The r-process entails a succession of rapid neutron captures (hence the name) by one or more heavy seed nuclei, typically beginning with nuclei in the abundance peak centered on 56Fe. The captures must be rapid in the sense that the nuclei must not have time to undergo radioactive decay before another neutron arrives to be captured, a sequence that is halted only when the increasingly neutron-rich nuclei cannot physically retain another neutron. The r-process therefore must occur in locations where there exists a high density of free neutrons. Early studies reasoned that 1024 free neutrons per cm3 would be required if the temperature were about one billion degrees in order that the waiting points, at which no more neutrons can be captured, be at the atomic numbers of the abundance peaks for r-process nuclei. This amounts to almost a gram of free neutrons in every cubic centimeter, an astonishing number requiring extreme locations. Traditionally this suggested the material ejected from the reexpanded core of a core-collapse supernova (as part of supernova nucleosynthesis) or decompression of neutron-star matter thrown off by a binary neutron star merger. The relative contributions of these sources to the astrophysical abundance of r-process elements is a matter of ongoing research.A limited r-process-like series of neutron captures occurs to a minor extent in thermonuclear weapon explosions. These led to the discovery of the elements einsteinium (element 99) and fermium (element 100) in nuclear weapon fallout.

The r-process contrasts with the s-process, the other predominant mechanism for the production of heavy elements, which is nucleosynthesis by means of slow captures of neutrons. The s-process primarily occurs within ordinary stars, particularly AGB stars, where the neutron flux is sufficient to cause neutron captures to recur every 10–100 years, much too slow for the r-process, which requires 100 captures per second. The s-process is secondary, meaning that it requires pre-existing heavy isotopes as seed nuclei to be converted into other heavy nuclei by a slow sequence of captures of free neutrons. The r-process scenarios create their own seed nuclei, so they might proceed in massive stars that contain no heavy seed nuclei. Taken together, the r- and s-processes account for almost the entire abundance of chemical elements heavier than iron. The historical challenge has been to locate physical settings appropriate for their time scales.

Radioisotope rocket

The radioisotope rocket is a type of thermal rocket engine that uses the heat generated by the decay of radioactive elements to heat a working fluid, which is then exhausted through a rocket nozzle to produce thrust. They are similar in nature to nuclear thermal rockets such as NERVA, but are considerably simpler and often have no moving parts.

The basic idea is a development of existing radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or RTG, systems, in which the heat generated by decaying nuclear fuel is used to generate power. In the rocket application the generator is removed, and the working fluid is instead used to produce thrust directly. Temperatures of about 1500 to 2000 °C are possible in this system, allowing for specific impulses of about 700 to 800 seconds (7 to 8 kN·s/kg), about double that of the best chemical engines such as the LH2-LOX Space Shuttle Main Engine.

However the amount of power generated by such systems is typically fairly low. Whereas the full "active" reactor system in a nuclear thermal rocket can be expected to generate over a gigawatt, a radioisotope generator might get 5 kW. This means that the design, while highly efficient, can produce thrust levels of perhaps 1.3 to 1.5 N, making them useful only for thrusters. In order to increase the power for medium-duration missions, engines would typically use fuels with a short half-life such as Po-210, as opposed to the typical RTG which would use a long half-life fuel such as plutonium in order to produce more constant power over longer periods of time. The even shorter half-life element fermium has also been suggestedAnother drawback to the use of radioisotopes in rockets is an inability to change the operating power. The radioisotope constantly generates heat that must be safely dissipated when it is not heating a propellant. Reactors, on the other hand, can be throttled or shut down as desired.

Synthetic element

In chemistry, a synthetic element is a chemical element that does not occur naturally on Earth, and can only be created artificially. So far, 24 synthetic elements have been created (those with atomic numbers 95–118). All are unstable, decaying with half-lives ranging from 15.6 million years to a few hundred microseconds.

Seven other elements were first created artificially and thus considered synthetic, but later discovered to exist naturally (in trace quantities) as well; among them plutonium—first synthesized in 1940—the one best known to laypeople, because of its use in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors.

Transfermium Wars

The names for the chemical elements 104 to 106 were the subject of a major controversy starting in the 1960s, described by some nuclear chemists as the Transfermium Wars because it concerned the elements following fermium (element 100) on the periodic table.

This controversy arose from disputes between American scientists and Soviet scientists as to which had first isolated these elements. The final resolution of this controversy in 1997 also decided the names of elements 107 to 109.

Transuranium element

The transuranium elements (also known as transuranic elements) are the chemical elements with atomic numbers greater than 92, which is the atomic number of uranium. All of these elements are unstable and decay radioactively into other elements.

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