Einsteinium, as we know, is the 99th element in the periodic table. It is also a synthetic element which means humans can only create it and is not naturally occurring.
Creating the element is complex, which is why it took around 69 years for researchers to make such measurements.
The element is in the same family of Uranium, Plutonium known as actinides. Although there was only 200 nanograms of the element, this was sufficient for a good understanding of the element.
The bond distance was different from what scientists thought. “There’s not much known about einsteinium,” co-lead author Dr Rebecca Abergel, from UC Berkeley’s Nuclear Engineering department, said in a statement.
Rebecca added it was a remarkable achievement, and it was significant as they could understand its properties better now and can use this to learn about other elements too. Thus paving a way to establish trends in the periodic table.
One place from where we can create this element is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor. Scientists there bombarded Curium with neutrons to create nuclear reactions leading to the production of Einsteinium. The difficulty was purifying it because the process also produces Californium. The next step was to create a specific sample holder in order to study it.
COVID-19 also had an impact on this, as these elements will decay over time. Einsteinium-254 was the isotope used in this study and has a half-life of 276 days. As a result of covid, most sample was gone. Although it was unfortunate losing the sample, the team has demonstrated that the last decade of advancement now allows more detailed studies of the elements at the edge of the periodic table.
Carter, K.P., Shield, K.M., Smith, K.F. et al. Structural and spectroscopic characterization of an einsteinium complex. Nature 590, 85–88 (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03179-3