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The Physical Properties of Einsteinium Revealed

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Scientists have uncovered some of the physical properties of einsteinium, the 99th element on the periodic table. It’s a rare and complex metal that has been shrouded in mystery for 69 years, since it was first created in the debris from a nuclear bomb test in 1952. Einsteinium doesn’t occur naturally and is incredibly hard to gather in bulk, making it one of the most difficult elements to study.

It’s also a radioactive, fast-decaying element with short half-lives for all of its isotopes. That made it tough for scientists to get the precise data they need to figure out how einsteinium interacts with other elements and how it might be used in real-world applications.

But a team at Berkeley Lab has just completed its most successful series of experiments on einsteinium to date, using sophisticated equipment that wasn’t around decades ago when einsteinium was first discovered. The researchers used the Molecular Foundry at Berkeley Lab and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, both DOE Office of Science user facilities, to conduct luminescence spectroscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy studies of the new isotope.

The team also determined einsteinium’s bond length, a key chemical property that helps to predict how the element will interact with other substances. They found that einsteinium’s bond length varies significantly from other actinide elements, an observation that could help scientists understand why the element behaves so differently from the rest of the actinide group.