Cerium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 58 and with the chemical symbol Ce. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Cerium possesses metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Cerium is preceded by Lanthanum and is followed by Praseodymium.
Of all Lanthanide chemical elements Cerium is the most common one and it’s relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust compared to the rest of the chemical elements in the Periodic Table. Cerium is relatively reactive when compared to other elements and it shows strong +3 and +4 oxidation states. This Lanthanide element can be extracted from ores and minerals. It has a variable electronic structure and it exists in four allotropic states at standard pressure. Cerium has a double hexagon close-packed crystal structure. This Periodic Table element has various applications and uses in pyrotechnics, glass manufacturing, metallurgy, and electronics, but it does not have any relevant biological roles.
Physical Characteristics of Cerium
Cerium appears in a solid form with a silvery white metallic surface, which gets rapidly tarnished when it’s exposed to air. When subjected to atmospheric pressure, Cerium becomes liquid. This element is relatively soft and it can be easily cut with a knife. This Lanthanide element is particularly ductile and its hardness can be easily compared to the one of the metallic chemical element Silver. Cerium has quite high melting and boiling points.
Chemical Properties of Cerium
Atomic Number – 58
Group – n/a
Period – 6
Block – f
Electronic Configuration – 4f1 5d1 6s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 140.116 (140.1160 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 140.116
Electronegativity – 1.12
Density (G CM-3) – 6.770 g/cm3 at room temperature; 6.55 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 1068 K; 795 °C; 1463 °F
Boiling Point – 3716 K; 3443 °C; 6229 °F
Atomic Radius – 181.8pm
Isotopes – 4
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 18, 9, 2
Discovery of Cerium
The chemical element Cerium was actually discovered by three scientists, named Martin Heinrich Klaproth, Jöns Jakob Berzelius, and Wilhelm Hisinger. The German chemist Klaproth discovered it in 1803 in Germany, while Berzelius and Heinrich carried out their own independent discovery in Sweden that same year. However, at that point the technology was not advanced enough to handle the electropositive element and thus, the chemical was first fully isolated in 1939 by Carl Gustaf Mosander.
Recognized by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth, Jöns Jakob Berzelius, and Wilhelm Hisinger
Known and discovered by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth, and Jöns Jakob Berzelius, Wilhelm Hisinger (1803)
Named by: Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1803)
Uses and role of Cerium
Nowadays Cerium does not play any role in biological organisms, however, it does have various industrial, commercial and scientific uses. The very first commercial application of this chemical element was for the manufacturing of gas mantles in the late 1800s.
Nowadays the most common and widely used of all Cerium compounds is Ceria. It can be used as a polishing compound, as a replacement of other metal oxides, as a catalytic converter, or as an oxidant in organic chemistry. Another interesting role of Cerium is as a strengthener and enhancer for various pigments. This chemical element also has various applications in electronics, pyrotechnics, metallurgy, and lighting installations.
Cerium on Earth
Cerium is the most abundant Lanthanide element in the Periodic Table. It marks up to 66pm on Earth and its abundance value is just behind the abundance of Copper in the Earth’s crust. Cerium can be found not only in our planet’s crust, but also in seawater. It is mainly abundant in various minerals with the most common ones being bastnasite and monazite. Furthermore, of all Lanthanide elements Cerium is actually the easiest one in terms of extraction because of its stable +4 oxidation state. In some cases this particular element can even form its very own minerals, which is the case with Cerianite.
According to a ground-breaking new discovery, alloys made out of Cerium and Aluminum could be the key to boosting the mining of Rare Earth elements. These alloys could solve the problem with the lack of abundance in Rare Earths, which are playing a key role in technology and economics in the US. If this discovery leads to a possible solution to the problem, it could boost the mining and production of electronics, such as high-tech windmills and hybrid cars, which are dependent on various Rare Earths.