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This image depicts the symbol and atomic weight of Rutherfordium. 

Rutherfordium is a synthetic element, named in honour of eminent scientist of Britain, Ernest Rutherford. It is a synthetic element that means it is not available in nature. You can prepare it in the laboratory. 

Atomic symbol: Rf

Atomic number: 104

Atomic weight: 265

Rutherfordium Atomic mass: 260.9g/mol

How was Rutherfordium Discovered?

There are some controversies involved with who discovered rutherfordium. A group of scientists in Dubna, Russia first reported about its discovery in the year 1964. Russian scientists in the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research at Dubna, Russia, U.S.S.R. declared the discovery of element 104. They named the element as kurchatovium, with the symbol Ku following the name of a Soviet Nuclear Physicist Igor Kurchatov. An isotope, 260Rf was produced that had 0.3 seconds of half-life. Then they changed the half-life to 0.15 seconds.

In the year of 1969, a team of American researchers at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley attempted to regenerate the result of the isotope identified by the Dubna gang. They announced that they have been able to identify the isotopes of the element which are different from the U.S.S.R. lab. This time, they had been able to produce four isotopes of Rutherfordium by following a different method. The controversy is, whether they produced 260Rf or not, is not confirmed in the report. 

Properties of Rutherfordium

It is the first transactinide atom. It is presumed to be in solid-state, and it is also thought it possesses similar properties that of Hafnium. This is highly radioactive.

Rutherford is a d-block element. It is a member of the 7th period and group-4 according to the periodic table.

It is a kind of trans-uranium element. Since it is produced synthetically, there is no possibility of the natural occurrence of the element and thus no scope of being affected by it.

12 isotopes of Rutherfordium are recognised along with their half-lives. The most stable one among the 12 isotopes is 265Rf having a half-life of about 13 hours and decays through spontaneous fission.

Experiments Behind the Discovery of Rutherfordium

Rutherfordium was first produced artificially in the laboratory in small quantities. Both the scientist teams used bombarding methods but in a different way.

In Dubna, the Soviet researchers bombarded Plutonium 242 along with the ions of neon 22. They made a declaration of obtaining an isotope of element 104 whose mass number is 260 and half-life of 0.3 seconds. Then they performed numerous experiments on the isotope newly discovered and claimed that it behaved the same way as they predicted for it. Next time, when they used a more advanced method for half-life measurement, it came out different from the earlier one. They found the half-life of the element is 0.1 seconds, not 0.3 seconds as they reported earlier. The mismatch in results creates doubt on the chemical experiments.    

On the other side, the other team, that is the team of Berkeley, produced four isotopes when they followed another investigation method. They could not follow that method; their equipment was not powerful enough to accelerate neon-22 ions to the energy required. So, they bombarded californium- 249 with carbon 12 and 13 as well as nuclei of 71 MeV and 69 MeV. This experiment, although they could not be able to produce the same result as the Soviet team, they were successful on their mission with the identification of four isotopes of element 104.

The bombardment of californium 249 with carbon 12 produced the isotope whose mass number is 257 and a half-life nearly 4-5 seconds. Similarly, californium 249 bombardments with carbon 13 produced an isotope possessing mass number 259 and a half-life between three to four seconds.

Next time the Berkeley scientist team bombarded curium 248 with oxygen 18 resulting in the production of an isotope of element 104. This isotope has a mass number of 261and half-life 70 seconds.

The U.S.S.R. researchers were able to make only a few atoms having mass number 260. On the contrary, the California university investigators obtained several hundreds of atoms that have a very close mass number, between 257 and 259.

Furthermore, since the isotopes yielded in the U.S. lab have longer half-lives, they can accurately measure the energies of their emissions, i.e. alpha particles and detect the products produced on decaying, which are known as nobelium isotopes.

For this reason, the discovery of the Berkeley team is considered more prominent. They were successful in providing more extensive proof and accurate information about various properties of the isotopes they discovered.     

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is Rutherfordium Solid, Liquid or Gas? How Does It Affect Health?

Based on the physical state, solid, liquid or gas, elements can also be classified. Rutherfordium is a Transition metal located in the periodic table between Groups 3-12. This element is solid.

Since this is an extremely unstable element and produced in a little amount, its effect on human health is still to study. The isotopes produced in the lab quickly decompose to other stable elements, hence there is little scope for experimenting to find out different properties and effects on humans, environment or reactions with other elements. 

2. Where Is Rutherfordium Found, And How Is Rutherfordium Used?

It is a synthetic element. It is not available in nature; this is prepared artificially in the lab. The scientists of Nuclear Institute of Dubna, Russia discovered it and later a separate team of researchers discovered it in the University of California, U.S.A. The name of the element came in honour of the renowned physicist, Ernest Rutherford.

Since, a small amount of the element is produced and a lot of research is required to know more about Rutherfordium, it has limited usages. It is mostly in use in science based research.