Fermium

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What is Fermium?

Fermium is a metal with an atomic number of 100. It is synthetic. The symbol representing fermium is Fm. Fermium is a radioactive element found in the actinide series of the periodic table. Many elements are created when neutrons of lighter elements bombard. Fermium is the heaviest of all those elements.

In the first-ever successful hydrogen bomb test, fermium was discovered. It was named after one of the greatest nuclear physicists, Enrico Fermi. However, it was Albert Ghiorso who discovered the element.

Till now, nothing huge has been discovered about fermium. However, scientists predict that fermium is an element that might be sensitive to air, steam and acid. Another fact about this metal is that it does not retain a vast half-life.


What Are Actinides?

The first element of the actinide series, Actinium, gives the name 'Actinide'. Actinide series is represented by 'an'. Actinide series comprises 15 elements ranging from 89 to 103. The elements of this series are Actinium, Thorium, Protactinium, Uranium, Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium, Curium, Berkelium, Californium, Einsteinium, Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium, and Lawrencium.


Properties of Fermium

  1. Fermium symbol- Fm

  2. Group- actinides

  3. Period- 7

  4. Blocking

  5. Fermium atomic number- 100

  6. Atomic mass of fermium- (257) gmol-1

  7. State at 20°C- Solid

  8. Electronic configuration of fermium- [Rn] 5f127s2

  9. Isotopes- 257Fm

  10. Fermium boiling point- Unknown

  11. Melting point- 1527°C, 2781°F, 1800 K

  12. Fermium Density (g cm-3)- Unknown 

  13. Fermium mass number- 257 u

  14. Fermium colour- Silvery-white


Chemical Properties of Fermium

  1. Reaction with Water - Very little amount of Fermium is generated, so fermium's behaviour with water is still unknown. However, it is predicted that it might resemble that of the element erbium (present just above fermium in the periodic table).

  2. Reaction with Acids - Since only a small amount of fermium is generated, its reactivity with acids is unknown. However, scientists predict that fermium might be susceptible to acids.

  3. Reaction with Air - A very minor amount of fermium is generated, so it's still to be discovered how it reacts with air. However, scientists predict that fermium might be sensitive to air.

  4. Reaction with Bases - Fermium's reactivity with bases is not known due to the generation of a minor amount of fermium. It is predicted that it might be the same as that of erbium which is present immediately above fermium in the periodic table.

  5. Reaction with Halogens - Reactivity of fermium is yet to be discovered. However, it is predicted that it might resemble that of erbium, the element just above fermium in the periodic table.


Uses of Fermium 

  • It is known that fermium is generated in a minor amount, and all the isotopes have extremely short lives. So, there are no such commercial uses of fermium.

  • Scientists are using fermium for experiments. As there are many facts yet to be discovered about this element, therefore, scientists are still experimenting on fermium to get a broader horizon of knowledge about fermium.


Fun Facts on Fermium

There are still many things left to be discovered about Fermium. However, there are certain facts about fermium that are known currently.

  • Fermium does not occur naturally. So, it does not have any hazardous fact or effect on health.

  • Presently, fermium can be found in very small quantities. If neutrons of plutonium are bombarded inside a nuclear reactor, fermium can be attained in small quantities. 257Fm and other isotopes can be generated by this process.

  • It is known that fermium does not occur naturally any longer. However, earlier fermium was known to have been generated in natural nuclear reactor deposits.

  • Fermium has no role in the biological world. It is radioactive and hence toxic.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How was Fermium discovered? How many isotopes of Fermium are found?

The Discovery of Fermium dates back to 1953. It was found in the radioactive fallout of the first successful hydrogen bomb testing on November 1, 1952. In this experiment, Uranium-238 was employed to trigger the thermonuclear explosion by providing the necessary amount of heat. 


The exposure of uranium isotope to neutrons resulted in some of its atoms capturing a number of them, hence forming elements having atomic numbers 93 to 103. Fermium's discovery was a secret till 1955. Meanwhile, a team of scientists in Stockholm made some Fermium atoms by Uranium-238 bombardment and found Fermium-255 have a half-life of half an hour.


There are a total of 21 isotopes of fermium known till now. They have atomic weights ranging from 242 to 260. Fermium-257 has the longest half-life period of 100.5 days. All the other existing isotopes of fermium have half-lives of 30 minutes and less. This tells that the neutron capture production chain ends at a mass number of 257 due to the extremely short spontaneous fission half-lives of the heavier isotopes.

2. What are the properties of Fermium? What are the other elements present in the actinide series of the periodic table?

The symbol of fermium is Fm. It belongs to the Actinide group, period 7, block f. The atomic number of fermium is 100 and the atomic mass is (257) gmol-1. The electronic configuration of fermium is [Rn] 5f127s2 


The boiling point of fermium is yet to be discovered while the melting point is 1527°C, 2781°F, 1800 K. Also, its density is unknown.  


Since fermium is found in very small quantities, the chemical properties such as the reactivity of fermium with water, air, acids, bases, or halogens are still to be discovered. However, scientists predict that its reactivity might resemble that of the erbium which is present right above fermium in the periodic table. 


Properties of actinide series include radioactive nature. Hence, all the elements present in the actinide series are highly radioactive. The first element of the actinide series that is Actinium, giving the name 'Actinide'. Actinide series is represented by 'an'. Actinide series comprises 15 elements ranging from 89 to 103. The elements of this series are Actinium, Thorium, Protactinium, Uranium, Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium, Curium, Berkelium, Californium, Einsteinium, Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium, and Lawrencium.