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Gadolinium (Gd)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Gd
  • Atomic Number: 64
  • Atomic Weight: 157.25
  • Element Classification: Lanthanide
  • Discovered By: Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac
  • Discovery Date: 1880
  • Name Origin: Named after Johan Gadolin, a Finnish chemist, mineralogist, and physicist
  • Density(g/cc): 7.90
  • Melting Point: 1313°C
  • Boiling Point: 3273°C
  • Appearance: Silvery-white, malleable, and ductile metal
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 180

Discovery

Gadolinium was discovered by Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac in 1880. Marignac detected its spectroscopic lines while analyzing samples of didymia and gadolinite. The element was isolated in its oxide form, and he named it gadolinium in honor of Johan Gadolin, to acknowledge Gadolin’s contributions to the study of rare earth elements. The metal form of gadolinium was isolated later by other chemists.

Relation to Other Elements

Gadolinium is part of the lanthanide series, known for their similar chemical properties, such as forming trivalent ions (+3) and being typically found in the same mineral deposits. Gadolinium is unique among lanthanides for having the highest thermal neutron capture cross-section, which makes it particularly useful in nuclear applications. It also exhibits unusual magnetic properties, including a high magnetic moment and a Curie temperature just above room temperature.

Natural Occurrence

Gadolinium is not found free in nature but occurs in several minerals, including monazite and bastnasite, along with other lanthanides. These minerals are processed to extract gadolinium and separate it from other rare earth elements. While gadolinium is relatively abundant among the rare earths, its extraction and purification are complex due to the close similarities between lanthanide elements.

Uses

Gadolinium has several important applications:

  • Medical Imaging: Gadolinium compounds are used as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to enhance the clarity and detail of the images. Gadolinium improves the visibility of internal structures by altering the magnetic properties of nearby water molecules in the body.
  • Neutron Absorption: Due to its high thermal neutron absorption capability, gadolinium is used in nuclear reactors as a neutron absorber, helping to control the nuclear reaction.
  • Magnets: Gadolinium is added to iron-chromium and iron-cobalt alloys to improve their magnetic properties for use in high-performance magnets, data storage disks, and microwave applications.
  • Manufacturing: Gadolinium is used in the manufacturing of phosphors for color television tubes and LED lights.

The discovery of gadolinium and the exploration of its properties have contributed to advancements in both medical technology, particularly in diagnostics through MRI, and in nuclear reactor design. Its unique magnetic and nuclear properties underscore the critical role of rare earth elements in modern science and technology.

Europium (Eu)

Terbium (Tb)