Samarium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 62 and with the chemical symbol Sm. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Samarium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Samarium is preceded by Promethium and is followed by Europium.
Samarium is a relatively hard Lanthanide element, which is slightly toxic and does not play any biological roles for living organisms. It is sometimes classified as a rare earth element, even though it is quite abundant on our planet. The element is named indirectly after the mineral Samarskite, which was in return named after a Russian miner, Colonel Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets, and was the very first chemical element to be named after a living person. This chemical element has various commercial applications and uses, mainly in the magnet industry and in medicine. China is the current leader in Samarium’s mining and commercial production.
Physical Characteristics of Samarium
In terms of physical characteristics Samarium is a relatively hard element, unlike other Lanthanide elements, and its density and hardness are close to the ones of the chemical element Zinc. It occurs in a natural solid state and has a silvery-white metallic surface in terms of color and appearances. Samarium forms various oxides in oxidation states of 4, 3, 2, and 1. This Lanthanide element is the third most volatile chemical element in the Lanthanide category after Ytterbium and Europium. It has extremely high boiling and melting points. Samarium exists in a rhombohedral crystal structure, unlike most Lanthanides. It is paramagnetic at room temperature and oxidizes slowly when exposed to Oxygen.
Chemical Properties of Samarium
Atomic Number – 62
Group – n/a
Period – 6
Block – f
Electronic Configuration – 4f6 6s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 150.36 (150.36 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 150.36
Electronegativity – 1.17
Density (G CM-3) – 7.52 g/cm3 at room temperature; 7.16 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 1345 K; 1072 °C; 1962 °F
Boiling Point – 2173 K; 1900 °C; 3452 °F
Atomic Radius – 180 pm
Isotopes – 5
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 24, 8, 2
Discovery of Samarium
A French chemist, named Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, isolated Samarium oxide in 1879 from a sample of the mineral Samarskite after he recognized a new element in it. He was credited with the discovery of the new element, which he named after the mineral, even though his isolation was impure. He initially named the element Samaria, but later proposed the new name Samarium.
The very first pure isolation of Samarium was carried out in 1901 by another French chemist, named Eugène-Anatole Demarçay.
Recognized by: Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1879)
Known and discovered by: Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1879)
Named by: Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran
Uses and role of Samarium
This Lanthanide element does not have any biological role for living organisms. However, it has various scientific uses and many commercial applications mainly in medicine and in the magnet manufacturing industry.
The Samarium-Cobalt magnets are the primary commercial usage of Samarium. They are permanent magnets, which remain stable when exposed to extreme temperatures. Another important commercial role of Samarium is as a chemical reagent and as a catalyst. This element is also widely used in medicine as it can kill cancer cells in patients suffering from breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, osteosarcoma, and other diseases. Samarium also plays a minor role in nuclear engineering.
Samarium on Earth
Samarium is the 5th most abundant Lanthanide element on Earth. Of all other chemical elements in the Periodic Table this Lanthanide is considered to be among the most common elements found in the Earth’s crust. It occurs not only in soils, but also in seawater. However, Samarium does not occur freely in nature. It can be extracted from various ores and minerals like bastnasite, monazite, samarskite, gadolinite, and cerite in combination with other elements.
A recent discovery shows that this Lanthanide element, or rather its compound Samarium Hexaboride, could play a key role in the future of quantum computing due to the fact that this particular Samarium compound is an outstanding topological insulator. Other possible discoveries conclude that Samarium could also be used for thermoelectric power converters, for pressure sensors, or for memory devices.