Einsteinium is an artificial element with atomic number 99, symbol Es, 252-u atomic mass, and period 7. This mysterious and highly radioactive element, is named after legendary physicist – Albert Einstein, though he did not discover it. In 1952, this element was discovered for the first time in airborne debris of a hydrogen bomb explosion (detonation of a thermonuclear weapon called ‘Ivy Mike’ at Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific). On 1st November 1952, detonation of Ivy Mike, as a part of an experiment at a remote island location called Elugelab in the South Pacific, produced an explosion nearly 500 times more destructive than Nagasaki explosion. Subsequently, this fallout material was sent to Berkeley Lab, California, which was examined by Stanley Thompson, Bernard Harvey, Albert Ghiorso, and Gregory Choppin.
Since the discovery, Einsteinium has been one of the most challenging elements to study as it is highly radioactive and difficult to create, thus, there is not much information about this element. Discovery of this element was not revealed for almost three years, it was in 1955 that scientists suggested that it should be named after Albert Einstein. After almost 70 years, on 17th November 2020, scientists studied about the element at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and reported a few properties of Einsteinium, which is placed at bottom row of periodic table. This study was published in a journal – Nature – on 3rd February 2021.
Scientists conducted experiment using microscopic amount of less than 250 Nano-grams, which was produced at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, which is one of the few labs capable of manufacturing Einsteinium. The element is one of the most stable isotopes that has a half-life of 276 days, which means it takes 276 days for half of the element to decay. Even if the element occurred on Earth during its formation, due to its shorter half-life and high radioactivity, it had most certainly decayed. Hence, the element cannot be naturally found and needs to be synthetically produced using intense and precise processes. Einsteinium, so far, has been manufactured in diminutive quantities and it is currently used only to create heavier element – Mendelevium (Md). The high rate of decay and radioactive nature makes it less useful in any other area, except for research purposes.
Einsteinium is minute that it is invisible to naked eyes and it took more than nine years to produce enough of it to see with the naked eye. For the recent research, using a precise X-ray produced by a particle accelerator, the scientists were able to examine this element to find out how it bonds with atoms. By studying this atomic arrangement, scientists can find out interesting chemical properties of other elements and isotopes that may be useful for nuclear power production and radiopharmaceuticals, Rebecca Aberge who co-led the study was quoted as saying in a release.