Skip to Main Content

Promethium (Pm): Lanthanides

Promethium (Pm)

What is Promethium?

Promethium is one of the most fascinating of all chemical elements. It has never been found on the Earth's surface. Scientists know of it only because it can be prepared artificially in particle accelerators ("atom smashers") and in other unusual reactions. Its existence was predicted as early as 1902, but its discovery was not confirmed until 1945. All of the known isotopes of promethium are radioactive. That is, they break down and give off radiation spontaneously. At one time, promethium was strictly a laboratory curiosity. Today, however, it has a number of practical industrial applications. Continue reading from Chemistry Explained

The History

In 1902, Bohuslav Branner speculated that there should be an element in the periodic table between neodymium and samarium. He was not to know that all its isotopes were radioactive and had long disappeared. Attempts were made to discover it and several claims were made, but clearly all were false. However, minute amounts of promethium do occur in uranium ores as a result of nuclear fission, but in amounts of less than a microgram per million tons of ore.

In 1939, the 60-inch cyclotron at the University of California was used to make promethium, but it was not proven. Finally element 61 was produced in 1945 by Jacob .A. Marinsky, Lawrence E. Glendenin, and Charles D. Coryell at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They used ion-exchange chromatography to separate it from the fission products of uranium fuel taken from a nuclear reactor. Continue reading from Royal Society of Chemistry

Promethium Facts

Named for the Greek Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humanity, glow-in-the-dark promethium is a highly radioactive, rare earth element. It is not found anywhere on Earth and is found in the byproducts of uranium fission reactions. Due to its rarity, its primary purpose is for research; it has possibilities for use in a variety of medical devices, batteries, and in luminescent paint. Continue reading from LiveScience

Chart of Elemental Properties for Promethium

Watch a Video on Promethium

Check out our Science Database or a Science Book from our Collection

Link to Science Reference Center Database
Link to Elemental by Tim James in the Catalog
Link to The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction by Eric Scerri in the Catalog
Link to Eureka by Chad Orzel in the Catalog
Link to Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey Williams in Hoopla
Link to Superheavy by Kit Chapman in the Catalog
Link to Absolutely Small by Michael D. Fayer in the Catalog
Link to Seven Elements That Changed The World by John Browne in the Catalog
Link to The Elements by Theodore W. Gray in the Catalog
Link to 10 Women Who Changed Science, And The World by Catherine Whitlock in the Catalog
Link to From Arsenic to Zirconium by Peter Davern in the Catalog
Link to Chemistry Demystified by Linda Williams in the Catalog
Link to The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean in the Catalog

Return to the Periodic Table of Elements Resource Guide Series