Gadolinium is a metal that is rarely discussed in typical conversation; however, it is widely discussed in chemistry, science and mining circles. What you might not know is that gadolinium is one of Earth’s rare metals. However, there’s likely a whole lot that you do not know about this little talked about metal. Read on to find out more.
1. Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac was credited with gadolinium’s discovery because he was able to realize that gadolinia was actually a new element’s oxide. This occurred during his observation in 1880. It is named for John Gadolin, a Finnish chemist.
2. Gadolinium metal wasn’t separated from its oxide until 1886, when Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, a French chemist, was able to do so.
3. Gadolinium is present in the Earth’s crust at nearly 6.2 mg/kg. The main areas that are mined for gadolinium are Australia, Brazil, China, India, Sri Lanka and the United States. Together, these countries produce nearly 400 tons of gadolinium each year.
4. Bastnasite and monazite are the oxides that are mined to produce gadolinium, as the metal doesn’t exist naturally due to it being far too reactive.
5. Gadolinium metal is silvery-white in color, ductile and quite malleable. Of all stable nuclides, gadolinium-157 actually possesses a cross section boasting the maximum thermal neutron capture.
6. In temperatures 20 degrees Celsius and below, this metal is ferromagnetic. At temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, gadolinium is extremely paramagnetic. It also shows magnetocaloric effects, meaning that when entering magnetic fields, its temperature rises and its temperature will decrease when exiting magnetic fields.
7. Gadolinium will combine with several elements in order to form derivatives of Gd. Some of these elements are arsenic, boron, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, selenium, silicon and sulfur, which when combined with gadolinium will form a binary compound.
8. Gadolinium metal is fairly stable when exposed to dry air. Yet, when exposed to moist air, it quickly tarnishes and will subsequently form a gadolium(III) oxide that loosely adheres, spalls off and becomes exposed to additional oxidation.
9. Gadolinium is also considered to be a fairly powerful reducing agent and is used to reduce the oxides of various metals into the respective elements. Extremely electropositive, gadolinium reacts quickly to form gadolinium hydroxide with hot water, but reacts fairly slowly cooler water. It also reacts with halogens in temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius and higher and is readily attacked by sulfuric acid.
10. The surprising thing is that gadolinium is not really used in large-scale applications. It does, however, have several uses. For instance, derivatives of gadolinium are used in neutron therapy to help target tumors and in the shielding of numerous nuclear reactors. It is also used to improve the resistance and workability of chromium, iron and other alloys, and in nuclear propulsion. In addition, it has also been used as an intravenous contrast agent for MRIs because it improves the images greatly and it tends to gather in abnormal body and brain tissues