Last Updated: July 12, 2024


Gadolinium, a lanthanide series element, is renowned for its exceptional properties and versatile applications, making it a subject of interest across various scientific and technological fields. This comprehensive guide delves into the world of Gadolinium, exploring its definition, significance, and the myriad of uses and compounds associated with it. With practical examples, we aim to enrich your understanding of this fascinating element, highlighting its role in enhancing technological advancements and medical innovations. Discover the unique attributes and transformative potential of Gadolinium in our detailed exploration.

What is Gadolinium?

Gadolinium is a chemical element with the symbol Gd and atomic number 64. It is a silvery-white, malleable, and ductile rare earth metal that is found in the lanthanide series of the periodic table. Gadolinium possesses unique chemical and physical properties, including a high magnetic susceptibility, making it especially useful in various applications within the fields of electronics, manufacturing, and medicine.One of the most notable properties of gadolinium is its use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a contrast agent, enhancing the quality of the images obtained. This is due to its ability to improve the visibility of internal body structures by altering the magnetic properties of water molecules in the human body under the influence of an MRI’s magnetic field.

Gadolinium Formula

  • Formula: Gd
  • Composition: Consists entirely of gadolinium atoms, categorizing it as an elemental metal within the lanthanide series of the periodic table.
  • Bond Type: In its elemental form, gadolinium does not engage in chemical bonding. However, it is capable of forming both ionic and covalent bonds with other elements, leading to a wide range of compounds.
  • Molecular Structure: As an element, gadolinium does not have a molecular structure in the same sense that chemical compounds do. It exhibits a metallic lattice, likely characterized by a hexagonal close-packed (hcp) crystalline structure. This structure contributes to its properties as a ductile and malleable metal with a lustrous silver appearance.
  • Electron Sharing: Gadolinium can share electrons in covalent bonding or donate electrons in ionic bonding. It most commonly exhibits a +3 oxidation state (Gd³⁺) in its compounds, participating actively in chemical reactions.
  • Significance: Gadolinium’s unique magnetic properties make it invaluable in various applications, particularly in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a contrast agent, enhancing the clarity of the images. Its use in neutron absorbers for nuclear reactors and in manufacturing materials with specific magnetic properties underscores its critical role in both medical technology and industry.
  • Role in Chemistry: Gadolinium’s chemical behavior is a subject of interest due to its position within the lanthanide series, highlighting the intricate nature of rare earth elements. Its ability to form different types of chemical bonds and participate in a range of reactions showcases its significance in both theoretical and applied chemistry fields.

Atomic Structure of Gadolinium

Atomic Structure of Gadolinium

  • Protons and Neutrons: Gadolinium has 64 protons in its nucleus, a defining feature of its atomic number. The number of neutrons varies among its isotopes, with the most stable isotope, Gadolinium-157, having 93 neutrons.
  • Electrons: It has 64 electrons, with their arrangement in the electron shells following the configuration [Xe] 4f⁷ 5d¹ 6s². This unique electron configuration contributes to gadolinium’s distinctive chemical and physical properties.
  • Energy Levels: Gadolinium’s electrons are distributed across several energy levels, reflecting its position in the periodic table. The outermost shell contains two electrons, contributing to its chemical reactivity.
  • Electron Shells: The electron shells of gadolinium are arranged to accommodate its 64 electrons, with the inner shells fully filled according to the Aufbau principle, and the outermost shells determining its chemical behavior.
  • Isotopes: Gadolinium has several naturally occurring isotopes, each with a different number of neutrons. These isotopes exhibit varying degrees of stability, with Gadolinium-157 being the most abundant and stable isotope.
  • Magnetic Properties: The unpaired electrons in gadolinium’s 4f orbital contribute to its high magnetic susceptibility, making it especially useful in applications that exploit its magnetic properties, such as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents.
  • Chemical Properties: The atomic structure of gadolinium underlies its ability to form various compounds through ionic and covalent bonding. Its +3 oxidation state is most common, playing a crucial role in its chemical interactions and applications in different industries.
  • Physical Properties: The atomic structure also influences gadolinium’s physical properties, including its silvery-white appearance, ductility, and malleability. These properties make gadolinium valuable for use in alloys and in specific technological applications.

Properties of Gadolinium

Properties of Gadolinium

Physical Properties of Gadolinium

Property Value
Appearance Silvery white, metallic
Atomic Mass 157.25 u
Density 7.90 g/cm³ at 20°C
Melting Point 1313 °C
Boiling Point 3273 °C
Magnetic Ordering Ferromagnetic below 20°C, Paramagnetic above
Specific Heat Capacity 240 J/(kg·K)
Thermal Conductivity 10.6 W/(m·K)
Electrical Resistivity 1.310 µΩ·m (at 25 °C)

Chemical Properties of Gadolinium

Gadolinium exhibits a range of chemical properties that underscore its reactivity and its ability to form various compounds. Below are detailed insights into its chemical nature, including relevant reactions and equations:

  • Oxidation States: Gadolinium most commonly exhibits a +3 oxidation state, but it can also present +1 and +2 states under specific conditions. The +3 state is most stable and prevalent in its compounds, such as in gadolinium oxide (Gd₂O₃) and gadolinium chloride (GdCl₃).Gd → Gd³⁺ + 3e⁻
  • Electronegativity: With a Pauling scale value of 1.20, gadolinium’s electronegativity indicates its moderate tendency to attract electrons towards itself in a chemical bond.
  • Atomic Radius: The metallic radius of gadolinium is 233.6 picometers, reflecting its size in metallic crystals.
  • Ionization Energy: The first ionization energy of gadolinium is 6.150 electron volts (eV), indicating the energy required to remove the most loosely held electron from an atom of the element in its gaseous state.
  • Electron Configuration: Gadolinium has the electron configuration [Xe] 4f⁷ 5d¹ 6s², showing the distribution of electrons across the different energy levels.
  • Reactivity with Oxygen and Water: Gadolinium reacts slowly with atmospheric oxygen to form gadolinium(III) oxide:2Gd + 3O₂ → 2Gd₂O₃It reacts with water, especially when finely divided or heated, to form gadolinium hydroxide and hydrogen gas:2Gd + 6H₂O → 2Gd(OH)₃ + 3H₂
  • Reaction with Acids: Gadolinium dissolves in dilute hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and nitric acid, forming solutions containing the colorless Gd(III) ions and releasing hydrogen gas:Gd + 3HCl → GdCl₃ + H₂
  • Formation of Compounds: Gadolinium forms a variety of compounds, including oxides, halides, and sulfides. These compounds typically exhibit the gadolinium ion in the +3 oxidation state, illustrating its versatility in forming chemical bonds.

Thermodynamic Properties of Gadolinium

Property Value
Melting Point 1313 °C
Boiling Point 3273 °C
Specific Heat Capacity 240 J/(kg·K)
Thermal Conductivity 10.6 W/(m·K)
Thermal Expansion 9.4 µm/(m·K) at 25 °C
Heat of Fusion 10.05 kJ/mol
Heat of Vaporization 301.3 kJ/mol
Entropy of Fusion 14.5 J/(mol·K) at the melting point

Material Properties of Gadolinium

Property Value
Density 7.90 g/cm³ at 20 °C
Mohs Hardness ~5.1
Young’s Modulus 54.8 GPa
Shear Modulus 21.8 GPa
Bulk Modulus 37.9 GPa
Poisson Ratio 0.259
Brinell Hardness 570 – 740 HB
Vickers Hardness Similar to Brinell Hardness

Electromagnetic Properties of Gadolinium

Property Value
Magnetic Ordering Ferromagnetic below 20°C, Paramagnetic above
Curie Temperature ~20 °C (293 K)
Magnetic Susceptibility High at low temperatures
Electrical Resistivity 1.310 µΩ·m at 25 °C
Superconducting Point Below 1.083 K (under high pressure)

Nuclear Properties of Gadolinium

Property Value
Natural Isotopes ¹⁵²Gd, ¹⁵⁴Gd, ¹⁵⁵Gd, ¹⁵⁶Gd, ¹⁵⁷Gd, ¹⁵⁸Gd, ¹⁶⁰Gd
Most Stable Isotopes ¹⁶⁰Gd (half-life: >1.3×10²¹ years)
Neutron Cross Section 49,000 barns for ¹⁵⁷Gd (thermal neutrons)
Neutron Capture Products Used in nuclear reactors as a neutron absorber
Isotopic Abundance Varies by isotope

Preparation of Gadolinium

  1. Extraction from Ores:
    • Initially, the ore is crushed and subjected to various physical and chemical processes to separate the rare earth elements from the gangue minerals. This often involves the use of flotation, magnetic separation, or gravity separation techniques.
  2. Leaching:
    • The concentrated ore is then leached with acid, typically sulfuric acid, to convert the rare earth elements into their soluble sulfate forms. This step dissolves the valuable elements, allowing them to be separated from insoluble waste material.
  3. Solvent Extraction:
    • The leach solution containing the rare earth elements undergoes solvent extraction. This process separates the rare earth elements from each other by using organic solvents that selectively react with specific elements. Gadolinium is separated from other lanthanides based on its chemical properties.
  4. Precipitation and Conversion:
    • Gadolinium is precipitated from the solution, often as gadolinium oxalate. This compound is then converted into gadolinium oxide (Gd₂O₃) through calcination, a process of heating the compound in the presence of air or oxygen.
  5. Metal Production:
    • The final step in the preparation of metallic gadolinium involves the reduction of gadolinium oxide. This reduction is commonly achieved using a reducing agent such as calcium at high temperatures in a vacuum or an inert atmosphere.
  6. Refining:
    • The produced gadolinium may still contain impurities. It is refined through processes such as vacuum distillation or zone melting to achieve the desired purity level. These methods help remove residual impurities, enhancing the metal’s quality for use in various applications.

 Chemical Compounds of Gadolinium

Chemical Compounds of Gadolinium

1.Gadolinium Oxide (Gd₂O₃)

  • Equation: 4Gd+3O₂→2Gd₂O₃
  • Properties:Used in optics and as a glass and ceramics dopant for stability.

2.Gadolinium Chloride (GdCl₃)

  • Equation: Gd+3Cl₂→GdCl₃
    • Properties: A catalyst and precursor for other gadolinium compounds, used in water purification.

3.Gadolinium Fluoride (GdF₃)

  • Equation: Gd+3F₂→GdF₃
  • Properties: Utilized in specialty glasses, ceramics, and solid-state laser research.

4.Gadolinium Nitrate (Gd(NO₃)₃)

  • Equation: Gd+3HNO₃→Gd(NO₃)₃ +1.5 H₂↑
  • Properties: Important in nuclear reactors and luminescence research for optical properties.

5.Gadolinium Sulfide (Gd₂S₃)

  • Equation: 2Gd+3S→ Gd₂S₃
  • Properties: Applied in optoelectronics and phosphors for converting electrical to visible light.

6.Gadolinium Bromide (GdBr₃)

  • Equation: Gd+3Br₂→GdBr₃
  • Properties: Used in chemical synthesis and as an organic synthesis catalyst.

Isotopes of Gadolinium

Isotope Mass Number Half-Life Mode of Decay Application/Significance
¹⁴⁸Gd 148 >75 years α-decay Scientific research
¹⁵⁰Gd 150 >1.79×10⁶ years α-decay Scientific research
¹⁵²Gd 152 Stable Natural abundance
¹⁵³Gd 153 Stable Natural abundance, MRI contrast agent
¹⁵⁴Gd 154 Stable Natural abundance
¹⁵⁵Gd 155 Stable Neutron capture therapy, nuclear reactors
¹⁵⁶Gd 156 Stable Natural abundance
¹⁵⁷Gd 157 Stable Neutron capture therapy, MRI contrast agent
¹⁵⁸Gd 158 Stable Natural abundance
¹⁶⁰Gd 160 Stable Natural abundance

Uses of Gadolinium

Uses of Gadolinium

  1. MRI Contrast Agent: Gadolinium compounds are used as intravenous contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to improve the clarity and quality of the images of internal body structures.
  2. Neutron Absorber: Due to its high neutron absorption capacity, Gadolinium is used in nuclear reactors’ control rods to regulate the nuclear fission process.
  3. Manufacturing of Phosphors: Gadolinium is used in making phosphors for color TVs, fluorescent lamps, and LEDs, enhancing the brightness and color quality.
  4. Data Storage: Gadolinium compounds are explored for their potential in magneto-optical storage media, such as in rewritable CDs and DVDs.
  5. Shielding in Neutron Radiography: Its high neutron capture cross-section makes Gadolinium suitable for use as a shielding material in neutron radiography, a non-destructive testing technique.
  6. Medical Therapy: Gadolinium isotope (¹⁵⁷Gd) is investigated for its use in neutron capture therapy, a cancer treatment method that targets tumors more selectively.
  7. Improving High-Temperature Characteristics of Iron and Chromium: Gadolinium is added to iron and chromium to improve their workability and oxidation resistance at high temperatures.
  8. Research and Development: In scientific research, Gadolinium is used to study the intrinsic properties of materials under extreme conditions due to its unique magnetic and thermal properties.

Production of Gadolinium

The production of Gadolinium, a rare earth element with significant applications in various industries, involves a series of complex processes. These steps ensure the extraction, separation, and purification of Gadolinium from its ores, primarily from minerals such as monazite and bastnäsite, which contain mixed rare earth elements. Here’s an overview of the production process:

  1. Mining: The first step involves mining the ore that contains Gadolinium along with other rare earth elements. These ores are typically extracted from open pit or underground mines.
  2. Crushing and Milling: The extracted ore is then crushed and milled to break it down into smaller particles, making the subsequent extraction of rare earth elements more efficient.
  3. Leaching: The crushed and milled ore is treated with a series of chemical solutions, usually acids like sulfuric acid, which dissolve the rare earth elements out of the ore material.
  4. Solvent Extraction: The solution obtained from leaching is subjected to a solvent extraction process. This involves using organic solvents to separate the rare earth elements from each other based on their chemical properties.
  5. Ion Exchange or Chromatography: Further purification is achieved using ion exchange or chromatography techniques. These methods allow for the precise separation of Gadolinium from other rare earth elements.
  6. Refining: The metallic Gadolinium obtained through reduction may contain impurities and is further refined through processes such as distillation or electrorefining to achieve the desired purity.
  7. Alloying (Optional): Depending on its intended application, Gadolinium can be alloyed with other metals to enhance its properties. For example, Gadolinium is alloyed with iron and boron to make high-performance magnets.

  Applications of Gadolinium

  1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Gadolinium is widely used as a contrast agent in MRI scans. Its compounds, particularly those containing gadolinium ions, enhance the contrast of images, making it easier to visualize organs, tissues, and blood vessels. This improves the accuracy of diagnoses.
  2. Neutron Absorbers: In nuclear reactors, gadolinium acts as an efficient neutron absorber. Its isotopes, such as Gd-157, have a very high neutron capture cross-section, which makes gadolinium compounds suitable for controlling nuclear fission reactions.
  3. Manufacturing of Electronic Components: Gadolinium’s ferromagnetic properties below 20 °C (Curie temperature) make it useful in the manufacturing of electronic components, such as data storage devices and sensors.
  4. Phosphors and LEDs: Gadolinium is used in the production of phosphors for color television screens, fluorescent lamps, and LEDs. It helps in creating materials that emit light when excited by electrons.
  5. Medical and Industrial X-ray Films: Gadolinium compounds are used in both medical and industrial X-ray films for improving the clarity and quality of the images.
  6. Magneto-Optical Recording Media: Due to its magnetic properties, gadolinium is used in the production of magneto-optical recording media, which are used for storing data in computers and other digital devices.
  7. Superconductors: Some gadolinium compounds exhibit superconductivity at low temperatures, making them of interest for research into superconductive materials.
  8. Improving High-Temperature Characteristics of Iron and Chromium: Gadolinium is added to iron and chromium to improve their resistance to oxidation at high temperatures. This makes them suitable for use in high-temperature industrial processes.
  9. Refractory Materials: Gadolinium is used in making refractory materials that are capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures, used in industrial furnaces and reactors.
  10. Optical Applications: Gadolinium is utilized in various optical applications due to its ability to manipulate and control light, including in the manufacturing of optical fibers and lasers.

Gadolinium’s unique set of properties, from its use in medical imaging to its role in nuclear reactors and electronic components, underscores its indispensable role across various industries. This table of gadolinium highlights not only its versatility and utility but also its significance in advancing technology and improving human health, marking it as a critical element in modern science and engineering.

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