Nuclear Energy

Einsteinium: the mysterious element named after Albert Einstein


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Einsteinium

Mains level : Not Much

The University of California has reported some of the properties of element 99 in the periodic table called “Einsteinium”, named after Albert Einstein.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The known forces of nature can be divided into four classes, viz, gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force.

With reference to them, which one of the following statements is not correct? (CSP 2012)

(a) Gravity is the strongest of the four

(b) Electromagnetism act only on particles with an electric charge

(c) Weak nuclear force causes radioactivity

(d) Strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons inside the nuclear of an atom.


  • It was discovered in 1952 in the debris of the first hydrogen bomb (the detonation of a thermonuclear device called “Ivy Mike” in the Pacific Ocean).
  • Since its discovery, scientists have not been able to perform a lot of experiments with it because it is difficult to create and is highly radioactive.
  • Therefore, very little is known about this element.
  • With this new study published in the journal Nature last week, for the first time researchers have been able to characterize some of the properties of the element.

The discovery of the element

  • Ivy Mike was detonated on November 1, 1952, as part of a test at a remote island location called Elugelab on the Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific.
  • The blast produced an explosion that was about 500 times more destructive than the explosion that occurred at Nagasaki.
  • Subsequently, the fallout material from this explosion was sent to Berkeley in California for analysis which identified over 200 atoms of the new element.

Properties of the element

  • Einsteinium has a half-life of 20 days.
  • Because of its high radioactivity and short half-life of all einsteinium isotopes, even if the element was present on Earth during its formation, it has most certainly decayed.
  • This is the reason that it cannot be found in nature and needs to be manufactured using very precise and intense processes.
  • Therefore, so far, the element has been produced in very small quantities and its usage is limited except for the purposes of scientific research.
  • The element is also not visible to the naked eye and after it was discovered, it took over nine years to manufacture enough of it so that it could be seen with the naked eye.
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