Chem Explorers

The Fascinating World of Fermium: Properties Uses and Discovery

Introduction to Fermium

Fermium, a synthetic and radioactive element, belongs to the actinide series and is denoted by the chemical symbol Fm. It was first produced in 1952 through the process of nuclear fusion by a team led by American physicist Albert Ghiorso. The element is named after the renowned physicist Enrico Fermi, who contributed extensively to the development of nuclear physics.

In this article, we will discuss the properties of Fermium, its isotopes and stability, and its decay and emissions. We will also explore the discovery of Fermium, including its origin and the team responsible.

Let’s dive in and learn more about this fascinating element.

Properties of Fermium

Fermium is a synthetic element, meaning that it is not found naturally on earth and instead must be synthesized in a laboratory environment. It is located in the actinide series, which is a group of elements that are highly radioactive and have similar properties.

Fermium is produced by bombarding lighter elements with neutrons in a nuclear reactor and separating it from the resulting mixture of elements. Fermium is highly reactive and tends to react with most nonmetals.

It is also very unstable and radioactive, with a half-life of only a few hours. As a result, its properties have not been extensively studied, and much of what is known about Fermium comes from the study of its daughter nuclides, which are produced as a result of its decay.

Isotopes and Stability

Fermium has no stable isotopes, meaning that all its isotopes are radioactive and decay over time. The most stable isotope, Fermium-257, has a half-life of around 100.5 days.

The shorter the half-life, the more unstable the isotope, and the more radioactive it is. The unstable nature of Fermium makes it challenging to study, and very little is known about it.

Decay and Emissions

Fermium decays primarily through the process of alpha emission, in which an alpha particle, consisting of two neutrons and two protons, is expelled from the nucleus. This process results in a decrease in the atomic number by two and atomic mass by four.

The daughter nuclide produced from the decay of Fermium is mendelevium, which is also highly unstable and radioactive. Fermium can also undergo spontaneous fission, a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two smaller nuclei, releasing a significant amount of energy in the form of radiation.

The fission of Fermium is rare and only occurs in a very short period.

Discovery of Fermium

Fermium was first produced in 1952 by a team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Nobel Institute of Stockholm. The researchers bombarded a sample of uranium-238 with oxygen nuclei to produce alpha particles.

After several nuclear reactions, the team observed the production of Fermium-253, which was later confirmed through various spectroscopic studies. The element was named after Enrico Fermi, a renowned physicist who had made significant contributions to nuclear physics and theoretical physics.

Fermi was instrumental in developing the first nuclear reactor and was a pioneer in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Ivy Mike Nuclear Test

Apart from laboratory production, Fermium has also been observed in nuclear explosions. The element was first identified in 1952 after the Ivy Mike nuclear test, which was the first-ever thermonuclear explosion.

The test was conducted on the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and involved the use of a primary explosive consisting of uranium-238 and a secondary one of lithium-6, which produced neutrons through a process of fusion. The test produced a tremendous amount of energy and radiation, and researchers observed the production of various radioactive isotopes, including Fermium.

The discovery of Fermium in nuclear weapons testing was a cause for concern as it suggested the potential for the widespread distribution of radioactive isotopes in the environment.

Laboratory Production

Fermium is produced in minuscule amounts, and its radioactive nature makes it challenging to handle. The production process involves the bombardment of a sample of uranium-238 with high-energy neutrons, which results in the creation of several different nuclides, including small amounts of Fermium.

The resulting mixture of isotopes must then be separated, which is typically done through a process of ion exchange chromatography.


In conclusion, Fermium is a synthetic and highly radioactive element that is challenging to study due to its unstable nature. Its properties have been explored through its decay and the study of its daughter nuclides.

Fermium was first produced in a laboratory in 1952, has been observed in nuclear explosions, and is produced in minuscule amounts through nuclear reactor bombardment. The discovery and subsequent study of Fermium have allowed physicists to gain a better understanding of the actinide series and may have applications in nuclear energy and medicine.

Identification of Fermium

Fermium is a highly radioactive synthetic element with the symbol Fm and atomic number 100. It belongs to the actinide series, which consists of elements with atomic numbers 89 to 103.

The CAS number for Fermium is 7440-72-4. One of the characteristics of Fermium is that it doesn’t occur naturally on Earth, but scientists can produce it artificially.

Position in the Periodic Table

Fermium is located in the f-block of the periodic table, specifically in group 3. The actinides occupy the second row of the f-block and follow the lanthanide series.

The properties of the actinides differ from the other elements in the periodic table, and they share similar properties due to their electronic configuration.

Properties and Characteristics of Fermium

General Properties of Fermium

Fermium has a standard atomic weight of 257.

The physical properties of Fermium, such as melting and boiling points, are not well known, as only minuscule amounts of it can be produced. Its chemical properties are also difficult to study due to its high radioactivity.

However, many of the features of Fermium can be inferred from the characteristics of other actinides.

Atom Structure and Data

The electron configuration of the Fermium atom can be predicted based on its position in the periodic table. It has 100 electrons with a ground-state electron configuration of [Rn] 5f^12 7s^2.

The element has 12 valence electrons that are located in the 5f orbitals. The configuration of these valence electrons gives Fermium some of its unique characteristics.

Radius and Electronegativity

Fermium’s atomic radius is not known precisely because it is highly unstable. However, predictions can be made based on the trend within the actinide series.

The atomic radius of Fermium is expected to be around 180 picometers. The covalent radius of Fermium is not known.

Fermium’s electronegativity is also not known precisely. However, it is expected to be around 1.3 on the Pauling scale.

Electronegativity represents the ability of an atom to attract electrons towards itself. The electronegativity of Fermium is lower than the commonly-known elements on the periodic table, such as oxygen and chlorine.

Applications of Fermium

Since Fermium is highly radioactive and unstable, it doesn’t have any significant applications outside of basic research. One potential application of Fermium could be in cancer treatment.

Actinium-225, a radioactive isotope of actinium, can be produced by neutron irradiation of Fermium-226. Actinium-225 has shown promising results in the treatment of certain types of cancers, so Fermium-226 could potentially play a role in its production.


Fermium is a synthetic radioactive element with atomic number 100. It belongs to the actinide series and is located in the f-block of the periodic table.

Its properties and characteristics are difficult to study due to its high radioactivity and instability. However, predictions can be made based on the trends within the actinide series.

Fermium’s radius, electronegativity, and other properties have potential applications in various fields, including cancer treatment.

Uses of Fermium

Fermium has few practical uses since the element is highly radioactive and has a short half-life. As a result, Fermium is only used for research purposes, and its main application is in the study of nuclear physics and related fields.

The radioactivity of Fermium makes it potentially dangerous, and it is not recommended for use in daily life.

Usage Limitations

Fermium is only used for research purposes. Due to its short half-life, Fermium is not practical for any industrial or commercial applications.

Fermium is used in scientific research to study the structure and properties of atomic nuclei and to investigate the reaction processes that occur during nuclear fission.

Health Hazards

Fermium is a potentially dangerous radioactive element that requires careful handling. Exposure to Fermium can result in severe damage to body tissues due to the ionizing radiation it emits.

The ionizing radiation from Fermium is harmful to humans, and exposure to it can cause radiation sickness, which is characterized by nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Interesting Facts

Production with Einsteinium

Fermium is produced through the nuclear bombardment of uranium-238 with neutrons. In 1952, Fermium was produced using the Nobel Institute cyclotron in Sweden.

The synthetic elements einsteinium and fermium were produced in this Nobel Institute cyclotron group, and they were the first synthetic elements to be produced in Europe. Scientists produced einsteinium and fermium by bombarding uranium-238 with a flow of high-energy neutrons.

Einsteinium and Fermium were discovered in separate experiments by teams working in the USA and Sweden. The discovery of these two elements was kept as top-secret information under a project called ‘Ivy Mike.’ In 1952, scientists in the USA produced the first hydrogen bomb, which incorporated a tiny amount of the two elements.

The classified status of the project delayed publication of the discovery in scientific journals until 1955.


Fermium is one of the most expensive elements to produce due to its method of production and scarcity. In general, the cost of Fermium is unknown, as it is not practical for industrial or commercial purposes.

The primary use of Fermium is for scientific research, and most of the costs are absorbed by research institutions.


Fermium is a synthetic, highly radioactive element with a short half-life that is only used for research purposes. Due to its radioactivity, Fermium can be dangerous to handle, and exposure to it can cause severe damages to body tissues.

Fermium is one of the rarest and most expensive elements to produce due to its scarcity, and the cost is generally unknown. Nevertheless, Fermium has contributed significantly to scientific research in the field of nuclear physics and remains an object of great interest among scientists, particularly those investigating nuclear fission.

In conclusion, Fermium is a synthetic, highly radioactive element that is primarily used for research purposes in the field of nuclear physics. Its properties and characteristics remain understudied due to its short half-life and radioactivity.

Although Fermium has limited practical applications, its production and study have provided valuable insights into atomic nuclei and nuclear fission. It is important to handle Fermium with caution due to its potential health hazards.

Overall, Fermium serves as a reminder of the ongoing advancements and discoveries in scientific research, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge about the atomic world.


  1. Is Fermium naturally occurring? No, Fermium is a synthetic element and does not occur naturally on Earth.
  2. Can Fermium be used outside of research purposes? No, Fermium has limited practical applications and is primarily used for scientific research.
  3. What are the health hazards associated with Fermium? Fermium is highly radioactive and exposure to it can cause radiation sickness and severe damage to body tissues.
  4. Why is Fermium expensive? Fermium is one of the rarest elements to produce, making it expensive due to its scarcity and the specialized methods required for its production.
  5. What is the significance of Fermium’s discovery? The discovery and study of Fermium have contributed to our understanding of nuclear physics and the reactions involved in nuclear fission. It has advanced research in these fields.

Final thought: Despite the limited practical applications of Fermium, its existence showcases the ongoing pursuit of scientific knowledge and the remarkable discoveries that are made through continuous exploration and experimentation.

Fermium serves as a testament to the ingenuity of scientists and the remarkable world of atomic elements.

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