They manage to study einsteinium, element 99 of the periodic table

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The einsteinium takes its name from the illustrious physicist Albert Einstein. American researchers have studied this element and published work. However, their research was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In homage to Albert Einstein

The periodic table of elements (or Mendeleev’s table) groups all chemical elements, ordered by increasing atomic number. Among the various elements present in this table contains, some are known to all. These include, for example, oxygen, carbon, magnesium or even gold. Many others, however, are much less so, like einsteinium (Es 99). Discovered in 1952 after analyzing the results of the first H-bomb explosion, this synthetic type element was named in homage to Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Since the discovery of einsteinium, actors in the scientific world have rarely had the opportunity to study it. Indeed it is very difficult to create it. A team made up of researchers from the University of Berkeley and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (United States), however, recently claimed to have succeeded in measuring the properties of the element. Their work was published in the journal Nature February 3, 2021.

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An element difficult to obtain

In a statement, one of the leaders of the study Rebecca Abergel explains that we do not yet know much about einsteinium. On the other hand, the study represents a remarkable advance since physicists were able to study a small amount of material. According to the researcher, progress in understanding the chemical behavior of einsteinium indeed paves the way for future development of new materials or new technologies.

With its 99 protons, einsteinium is one of the transuranic elements, that is to say heavier than uranium (U 92). To obtain it, the researchers had to set up very important logistics. Their hope lay in the bombardment of curium (Cm 96) with neutrons. The objective was then to trigger a chain reaction and produce the famous material in its pure form. Unfortunately, the chemical process was several times contaminated by another element: californium (Cf 98).

The pandemic has come to a halt

After obtaining the material, it must be studied quickly before the inevitable radioactive decay. The researchers then had einsteinium-254, an isotope with a half-life of 276 days. After this period, the element disintegrates by half and is no longer present in sufficient quantity to integrate into work. The researchers were thus able to carry out various experiments, but the Covid-19 pandemic stopped the search. After returning to their workplace, the researchers found that the isotope had passed its half-life. In the short term, starting from scratch with the creation of the element was not considered.

Despite this, physicists were able to measure the bond length einsteinium. This property provides details on how a metal binds to other molecules or what type of chemical interaction this same metal could have. Scientists have also characterized the physico-chemical behavior einsteinium. For those responsible for the study, understanding the end of the periodic table is becoming clearer and could lead to the discovery of new elements.





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