- There are only 31 grams of astatine on the entire planet Earth-.
- Astatine usually appears as a decay product of other elements but because it is highly radioactive, it vaporizes instantaneously.
- Astatine is presumably capable of behaving like metal and is able to create a stable monatomic cation in liquids.
Can you imagine there is an element on our planet whose entire mass in existence is just 31 grams? The majority of elements on our planet are present in large quantities. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are everywhere around us, not to mention the dozens of other elements. However, one element is considered rarer than any other, and that is astatine. We will repeat it one more time; there are only 31 grams of astatine on our entire planet.
The Elusive Element
Astatine is so rare that scientists could not prove its existence for the longest time. It was included in the periodic table because of theoretical necessity. Scientists concluded that there should be an element that has 85 protons in the nucleus somewhere on the planet. However, they could not find proof of its existence. Eventually, they did manage to prove it through experiments performed in the laboratory.
However, finding it in nature is a completely different task. Astatine is an extremely radioactive element. Its radioactivity is, in fact, so high that it manages to vaporize itself. This is why it is practically impossible to find it anywhere. The element can only be used for theoretical studies.
Speculating On The Characteristics
The symbol of astatine is AT, and its atomic number is 85. Astatine usually appears as a decay product of other elements. However, as previously mentioned, because of its high radioactivity, it vaporizes almost instantly. All of the isotopes of this element are extremely short-lived. The longest any managed to stay “alive” was 8 hours. Scientists never managed to assemble a sample of the element in its pure form. This is what makes it so elusive and rare.
Because of all of this, we do not have sufficient knowledge about the bulk properties of this element. Scientists have managed to estimate some of them based on where astatine is positioned on the periodic table; however, all of this is inconclusive data. They believe that astatine is a heavier analog of iodine and that it should be included in the group of elements called the halogens. This group includes chlorine, bromine, and iodine.
Presumptions About Astatine
It is believed that astatine has a dark appearance and that it could possibly be a semiconductor. Others presume that it is a metal. However, all agree that its melting point is higher than the melting point of iodine. A small number of anionic species of this element was discovered, and they greatly resemble iodine. This confirms that the two elements could indeed be similar. Astatine is supposedly capable of behaving like metal and can create a stable monatomic cation in liquids.
The first time this element was synthesized was in 1940. This was done by Kenneth Ross MacKenzie, Emilio G. Sgre, and Dale R. Corson at the University of California. They named it after the Greek word astatos, which means “unstable.” If you ask us, the name suits it perfectly. Eventually, four different isotopes of astatine were found, although their presence in the Earth’s crust is extremely small.