Facts About Europium

Atomic Number: 63 Atomic Symbol: Eu Atomic Weight: 151.964

Melting Point: 1,512 F (822 C) Boiling Point: 2,784 F (1,529 C)

Name origin: Named after Europe.

Discovery: In 1890, French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran extracted fractions of the element from samarium-gadolinium concentrates, which had spark spectral lines that were not attributable to samarium or gadolinium.

Weakly oxidized europium, hence slightly yellowish. 1.5 grams, large piece 0.6 x 1.6 cm. (Image credit: Images of elements)

However, another French chemist, Eugene-Anatole Demarcay, is typically credited with the discovery of the element as he ultimately produced a relatively pure form of the rare earth metal in 1901. It was not until recent years that the metal was isolated.

Properties of europium

Europium, a member of the lanthanides group of elements, ignites at air temperatures of 302 to 356 F (150 to 180 C), which is the case of all other rare earth metals with the exception of lanthanum. Europium can be easily molded or shaped and is about as hard as lead. It is the most reactive of the rare earth metals, quickly oxidizing in air and, like calcium, it reacts quickly and vigorously with water. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

Sources of europium

Europium can be found in the ores bastnasite and monazite. The element has also been identified in the sun and some stars.

Europium is produced by mixing europium oxide (Eu2O3) with a 10 percent excess of lanthanum metal and heating the mixture under high vacuum. During the process, a silvery-white metallic substance containing europium is deposited on the walls of the container.

Uses of europium

Laser material is one byproduct of europium-doped plastic. The cost of production has been greatly reduced through the development of special processes and ion-exchange techniques.

There are 17 isotopes currently recognized, some of which are being studied for use in nuclear control applications because they are good neutron absorbers.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Live Science Staff
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