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What is Rutherfordium?

Rutherfordium is a synthetic chemical element with the symbol Rf and atomic number 104. Named after physicist Ernest Rutherford, it's a radioactive, transuranic member of the actinide series, created in a lab and not found in nature. Its properties are still being investigated due to its rarity and short half-life. How might understanding Rutherfordium impact modern science? Continue with us to uncover its potential.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Rutherfordium is a chemical element that can only be produced synthetically. Little is known about this element, since it has only been produced in small volumes, and it is difficult to study. As a result of its rarity, no commercial uses have been developed for it, and most people are unlikely to ever encounter it. This is probably just as well for average individuals, as it is radioactive.

This element can be produced synthetically by irradiating plutonium. Scientists have also succeeded in creating various isotopes of it by bombarding and irradiating various other elements. It has a very short half life, as do its isotopes, making study of the element difficult; its chemical properties are presumed to be similar to those of hafnium, a related element.

Rutherfordium has an atomic number of 104, and is identified with the symbol Rf on the periodic table of elements.
Rutherfordium has an atomic number of 104, and is identified with the symbol Rf on the periodic table of elements.

On the periodic table of elements, rutherfordium is identified with the symbol Rf, and it has an atomic number of 104, placing it beyond the actinide elements. It and other heavier elements are known as transactinide elements. Scientists assume that rutherfordium is metallic in nature, and they have made other conjectures about its chemical structure and appearance, but none of these suppositions have been confirmed.

On the periodic table of elements, rutherfordium is identified with the symbol Rf, and it has an atomic number of 104.
On the periodic table of elements, rutherfordium is identified with the symbol Rf, and it has an atomic number of 104.

Credit for the discovery of this element is actually contentious. Researchers at a lab in Russia led by G.N. Flerov published an article about the discovery of the element in 1964, proposing “kurchatovium” as a name to honor a famous Russian scientist. In 1969, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley were unable to replicate the work of the Russians, but they did discover some additional isotopes of element 104, proposing “rutherfordium” as a name to honor Ernest Rutherford, a 1908 Nobel Prize winner from New Zealand.

Rutherfordium is radioactive.
Rutherfordium is radioactive.

The battle over credit for the discovery of the element went on until the 1990s, when it was decided that both labs should be given credit, and the name “dubnium” was given to element 105 to honor the Russian laboratory. To add to the confusion, some scientists call it eka-hafnium.

This element and its isotopes are used in scientific research. Scientific laboratories work with the transactinide elements in the hopes of learning more about them, and hopefully finding useful potential applications for them. The radioactivity of rutherfordium can make it challenging to work with, and its short half life can be frustrating as well.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllTheScience researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllTheScience researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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    • Rutherfordium has an atomic number of 104, and is identified with the symbol Rf on the periodic table of elements.
      By: Anna
      Rutherfordium has an atomic number of 104, and is identified with the symbol Rf on the periodic table of elements.
    • On the periodic table of elements, rutherfordium is identified with the symbol Rf, and it has an atomic number of 104.
      By: jelena zaric
      On the periodic table of elements, rutherfordium is identified with the symbol Rf, and it has an atomic number of 104.
    • Rutherfordium is radioactive.
      By: Lack-O'Keen
      Rutherfordium is radioactive.
    • Sather Tower at the University of California, Berkeley. Scientists at UC Berkeley were one of the groups that discovered rutherfordium.
      By: Eric BVD
      Sather Tower at the University of California, Berkeley. Scientists at UC Berkeley were one of the groups that discovered rutherfordium.