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Promethium, Light Rare Earth Elements, LREE, REE Facts, ProEdge Media Corp., InvestorIntel
REE Facts | HREE Facts | LREE Facts | Rare Metal Resource
LREE : 57 Lanthanum | 58 Cerium | 59 Praseodymium | 60 Neodymium | 61 Promethium | 62 Samarium | 63 Europium | 64 Gadolinium
HREE : 65 Terbium | 66 Dysprosium | 67 Holmium | 68 Erbium | 69 Thulium | 70 Ytterbium | 71 Lutetium | 39 Yttrium
Promethium, Light Rare Earth Elements, LREE, REE Facts, ProEdge Media Corp., InvestorIntel
Facts about the Light Rare Earth Element, Promethium the “Fire Titan”
Tracy Weslosky, Editor, InvestorIntel
Source: REE Handbook

Promethium, REE Collection, ProEdge Media Corp. Rare earths, the final frontier, a 151 year mission to explore a new group of elements. Promethium was the last of them, and the most elusive. From 1794 to 1945, it took the best scientists in the world countless hours of research to uncover this assemblage of 17 elements, so chemically similar, yet curiously diverse.

A trio of American scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) discovered promethium in 1945. The element was separated and analyzed from the fission products of uranium fuel irradiated in a graphite reactor. The discovery team did not announce their findings until 1947 because of critical research that was underway at ORNL during World War II. The name Prometheum was suggested by Mary Coryell, wife of one of the discoverers, after the mythological Greek Titan, Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and brought it down to Earth. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry accepted the discovery, however, they changed the spelling to Promethium to conform to the other elements.

Promethium is used as a starter switch in energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). Luminous promethium range-marks are used in the targeting sights of shoulder-fired missiles. Promethium is used in nuclear powered batteries that have a useful life of five years and also used in Electric blanket thermostats. A bringer of fire indeed. Promethium is a silver-white metal that tarnishes slowly in air to a pink tint and burns readily in air at 150 °C. No stable isotopes of the element exist and 38 radioisotopes have been identified. The original isotope discovered was Promethium-147 which has a half-life of 2.62 years, and is a uranium fission product from nuclear reactors via the beta decay of neodymium-147. Promethium- 145 has the longest half-life at 17.7 years.

The first promethium metal was prepared in 1963 by the reduction of PmF3 with lithium. Promethium-147 metal is prepared using calciothermic reduction of the trihalide, typically anhydrous PmCl3. The reduction uses high-purity calcium metal as a reductant to reduce the PmCl3 in a magnesium oxide crucible. Additional purification to remove the calcium and magnesium impurities requires a vacuum distillation step to yield a high-purity promethium metal. Trace amounts of promethium have been found in naturally occurring minerals. Extremely small trace amounts of promethium have been identified in the uranium mineral pitchblende at a concentration of four parts per quintillion (1018) by mass. Promethium occurs naturally in the Earth's crust at miniscule concentrations. By calculating the content of promethium at secular equilibrium in the Earth's crust, about 560 grams would naturally occur as a result of the spontaneous fission of uranium-238 and about 12 grams would naturally occur due to the alpha decay of europium-151.

Promethium does not occur in sufficient quantities in the Earth's crust to be economically mined and no promethium minerals have been discovered. It is applied on watch hands and dials to glow in the dark. The radiation from promethium is also used as a thickness gauge for thin plastics, sheet metal, rubber, textiles, and paper.

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