Gadolinium: the essentials

Gadolinium is silvery white, has a metallic lustre, and is is malleable and ductile. It is ferromagnetic (strongly attracted by a magnet).

The metal is relatively stable in dry air, but in moist air it tarnishes with the formation of a loosely adhering oxide film which "spalls" off and exposes more surface to oxidation. The metal reacts slowly with water and is soluble in dilute acid. Gadolinium has the highest thermal neutron capture cross-section of any known element.

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Gadolinium: historical information

Gadolinium was discovered by Jean de Marignac in 1880 at Switzerland. Origin of name: named after J. "Gadolin", a Finnish chemist and minerologist.

Spectroscopic lines due to gadolinium were observed by Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac in 1880 in samples of didymia and gadolinite. Gadolinia, the oxide of gadolinium, was separated by Paul-Emile Loq de Biosbaudran in 1886. The element was named for the mineral gadolinite from which this rare earth was originally obtained. The element itself was isolated only recently.

Gadolinium around us Read more »

Gadolinium has no biological role but is said to stimulate the metabolism.

Gadolinium is never found in nature as the free element. Gadolinium is found in the ores monazite sand [(Ce, La, etc.)PO4] and bastn°site [(Ce, La, etc.)(CO3)F], ores containing small amounts of all the rare earth metals, as well as gadolinite. It is difficult to separate from other rare earth elements.

Abundances for gadolinium in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 2 0.02 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 5200 680 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human (no data) ppb by weight (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of gadolinium is: hcp (hexagonal close-packed).

Gadolinium: orbital properties Read more »

Gadolinium atoms have 64 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Gadolinium is [Xe].4f7.5d1.6s2 and the term symbol of Gadolinium is 9D2.


Isolation: gadolinium metal is available commercially so it is not normally necessary to make it in the laboratory, which is just as well as it is difficult to isolate as the pure metal. This is largely because of the way it is found in nature. The lanthanoids are found in nature in a number of minerals. The most important are xenotime, monazite, and bastnaesite. The first two are orthophosphate minerals LnPO4 (Ln deonotes a mixture of all the lanthanoids except promethium which is vanishingly rare) and the third is a fluoride carbonate LnCO3F. Lanthanoids with even atomic numbers are more common. The most comon lanthanoids in these minerals are, in order, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, and praseodymium. Monazite also contains thorium and ytrrium which makes handling difficult since thorium and its decomposition products are radioactive.

For many purposes it is not particularly necessary to separate the metals, but if separation into individual metals is required, the process is complex. Initially, the metals are extracted as salts from the ores by extraction with sulphuric acid (H2SO4), hydrochloric acid (HCl), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Modern purification techniques for these lanthanoid salt mixtures are ingenious and involve selective complexation techniques, solvent extractions, and ion exchange chromatography.

Pure gadolinium is available through the reduction of GdF3 with calcium metal.

2GdF3 + 3Ca → 2Gd + 3CaF2

This would work for the other calcium halides as well but the product CaF2 is easier to handle under the reaction conditions (heat to 50°C above the melting point of the element in an argon atmosphere). Excess calcium is removed from the reaction mixture under vacuum.

Gadolinium isotopes Read more »

Gadolinium has the highest cross section for the capture of thermal neutrons of any element and this is mainly due to the high cross section of Gd-157 (255,000 barn) and Gd-155 (61,000 barn). Natural Gadolinium is currently used as a burnable poison in nuclear fuel, but the use of Gd-155/157 only has been proposed as this would create an even more effective burnable poison. Gd-152 is used for the production of radioactive Gd-153 which is used for osteoporosis research and bone density measurements. Gd-160 is used in double beta decay research.

Table. Stables isotopes of gadolinium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
152Gd 151.919786 (4) 0.20 (1) 0
154Gd 153.920861 (4) 2.18 (3) 0
155Gd 154.922618 (4) 14.80 (12) 3/2 -0.2591
156Gd 155.922118 (4) 20.47 (9) 0
157Gd 156.923956 (4) 15.65 (2) 3/2 -0.3399
158Gd 157.924019 (4) 24.84 (7) 0
160Gd 159.927049 (4) 21.86 (19) 0

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