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What is Mendelevium?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Mendelevium is a metallic chemical element which is classified among the actinide elements on the periodic table. Little is known about this element, since it does not appear in nature and it is expensive and time consuming to synthesize. Since the element can only really be studied and worked with in trace amounts, commercial uses for mendelevium have not been developed, although it is used in scientific research.

This element is produced by bombarding other elements with charged particles. Typically isotopes of einsteinium are used to produce mendelevium, although other elements can potentially be used as well. Like other elements which can only be produced synthetically, mendelevium exists only in trace amounts at any given time. It has a relatively short half life, ranging from a few minutes to a few months, depending on the isotope which is generated.

This element is identified on the periodic table with the symbol Md, and it has an atomic number of 101, placing it in the transuranic elements. Transuranic elements are elements with atomic numbers greater than that of uranium, and they share a number of properties, notably instability and reactivity. They also presumably share many chemical properties, although the chemical properties of elements like mendelevium are not really known, since it is difficult to glean useful information from the trace amounts generated through synthesis.

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Credit for the discovery of this element is typically given to a team of physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, who discovered the element in 1955. Glenn Seaborg and Albert Ghiorso were two notable members of the team, which also included Bernard Harvey, Gregory Choppin, and Stanley Thompson. The men proposed “mendelevium” as a name for the new element, honoring Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleev, the developer of the first periodic table of elements.

Like other radioactive elements, mendelevium represents a potential human health risk, although this risk is generally rather small since the element only occurs in trace amounts. People who work in laboratories with mendelevium and other radioactive elements follow procedures which are designed to minimize radiation exposure; these procedures typically include the use of monitoring systems which check for radiation.

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