'Einsteinium' was first received from the debris of a hydrogen bomb test in 1952. Up until recently, it has been difficult to recreate and characterize in a lab. A team of scientists has just been able to study in detail the elemental debris with findings published in a new study.
What is Einsteinium?
Discover in the fallout of the first hydrogen bomb detonated by the U.S in the Marshall Islands back in November 1952, Einsteiumium is the 99th element of the periodic table.
Despite being a byproduct of one of the most destructive weapons built by man, the highly radioactive element has never been studied in detail until today. The lack of opportunity to study is due to difficulties in recreating the extraordinary environments needed t synthesize the element, similar to the blast zone of a thermonuclear explosion.
Scientists for decades have struggled to synthesize enough einsteinium in lab conditions to unravel its basic properties.
Discovery of Einsteinium
Today, a team of researchers, using modern techniques have been able to pin down key chemical information for the first time utilizing a 200-nanogram sample of the element.
The results published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, reveals new insights on einsteinium and offers a new window into the unusual behavior of the actinides---the radioactive family of elements from atomic number 89-103.
Rebecca Abergel, a nuclear engineer from UC Berkely that co-led the research says, "We now have access to state-of-the-art techniques that weren't there in the past few decades."
Einsteinium has been studied before, but due to smalls samples tests were only able to infer a bit of information regarding the element's radioactive signatures.
Abergel and her colleagues conducted a spectroscopic analysis that would reveal finer details of einsteinium, like its bond distance that influences how an element interacts with other molecules and atoms.
Abergel explains, "it's a very typical type of information you'd want to get about any element. It tells us about how an element is going to be behaving when it's surrounded by other atoms and how it will form chemical bonds."
She adds that currently, there are a few elements in the periodic table that don't have the information, so the research is about building fundamental knowledge and further contributing to our understanding of the different behaviors of elements.
The team of researchers received a sample from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's High Flux Isotope Reactor, Tennessee, in 2019. However, since the samples were contaminated with another actinide element: californium, the team had to adjust their experimental technique.
After working out the kinks, the element was examined by utilizing the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory and the Standford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.
Researchers were able to provide the first in-depth analysis of the mysterious elements, including their bond distance while shedding light on other actinide relatives.
Abegerl and her team hope that the advances published in their study would lead to future experiments that probe the enigmatic members of the periodic table or the discovery of new superheavy elements.
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