Chemical Fact Sheet: Berkelium
Berkelium - (Berkeley, home of the University of California), Bk; at.wt. (247); at.no. 97; m.p. 1050 deg C; valence 3 or 4; sp.gr. 14 (est.). Berkelium, the eighth member of the actinide transition series, was discovered in December 1949 by Thompson, Ghiorso, and Seaborg, and was the fifth transuranium element synthesized. It was produced by cyclotron bombardment of milligram amounts of 241Am with helium ions at Berkeley, California. The first isotope produced had a mass number of 243 and decayed with a half-life of 4.5 hours. Eleven isotopes are now known and have been synthesized. The existence of 249Bk, with a half-life of 32O days, makes it feasible to isolate berkelium in weighable amounts so that its properties can be investigated with macroscopic quantities. One of the first visible amounts of a pure berkelium compound, berkelium chloride, was produced in 1962. It weighed 3 billionth of a gram. Berkelium probably has not yet been prepared in elemental form, but it is expected to be a silvery metal, easily soluble in dilute mineral acids, and readily oxidized by air or oxygen at elevated temperatures to form the oxide. X-ray diffraction methods have been used to identify the following compounds :BkO2, BkO3, BkF3, BkCl, and BkOCl. As with other actinide elements, berkelium tends to accumulate in the skeletal system. The maximum permissible body burden of 249Bk in the human skeleton is about 0.0004 ug. Because of its rarity, berkelium presently has no comniercial or technological use. Berkelium-249 is available from O.R.N.L. at a cost of $160/ug plus packing charges.