Bohuslav Brauner, a Czech chemist predicted the existence of promethium in 1902. Although several groups claimed to have discovered the element, none of them were able to confirm their discovery. However, Charles D. Coryell, Lawrence E. Glendenin and Jacob A. Marinsky proved the existence of promethium in 1944 and claimed their findings in 1946. They discovered promethium while examining the byproducts of uranium fission in a nuclear reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The IUPAC named the element as promethium in 1949 after the Greek Titan Prometheus.
||Solid at 298 K
|CAS Registry ID
|Period in periodic table
|Block in periodic table
||1315 K (1042°C or 1908°F)
||3273 K (3000°C or 5432°F)
|Phase at room temperature
Promethium is not found in the Earth’s crust. However, it can be observed in uranium ores as a product of uranium decay. In addition, it can be found in the Andromeda galaxy.
Promethium has 29 isotopes with mass numbers from 130Pm to 158Pm. It has no naturally-occurring isotopes. The longest-lived isotopes of promethium are 145Pm having a half-life of 17.7 years and 147Pm having a half-life of 2.6234 years.
Pure promethium can be obtained through reducing promethium fluoride with calcium metal:
2PmF3 + 3Ca → 2Pm + 3CaF2
Furthermore, a series of nuclear reactions involving bombardment of neodymium-146 with neutrons produced promethium. It can also be obtained from the byproducts of uranium fission.
The key properties of promethium are listed below:
- It is a silvery-white radioactive metal
- It luminesce with a pale blue or green glow in dark due to its radioactivity
- It is very unstable
- It is chemically similar to other lanthanides.
Some of the applications of promethium include the following:
- It is used as a beta source for thickness gauges
- It is used in atomic batteries suitable for radios, watches, missiles and spacecraft.