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Samarium, 62Sm
Pronunciation /səˈmɛəriəm/ (sə-MAIR-ee-əm)
Appearancesilvery white
Standard atomic weight Ar°(Sm)
Samarium in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Atomic number (Z)62
Group f-block groups (no number)
Period period 6
Block   f-block
Electron configuration [ Xe ] 4f6 6s2
Electrons per shell2, 8, 18, 24, 8, 2
Physical properties
Phase at  STP solid
Melting point 1345  K (1072 °C,1962 °F)
Boiling point 2173 K(1900 °C,3452 °F)
Density (at 20° C)7.518 g/cm3 [3]
when liquid (at  m.p.)7.16 g/cm3
Heat of fusion 8.62  kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 192 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 29.54 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa)1101001 k10 k100 k
at T (K)100111061240(1421)(1675)(2061)
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 0, [4] +1, [5] +2, +3 (a mildly basic oxide)
Electronegativity Pauling scale: 1.17
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 544.5 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 1070 kJ/mol
  • 3rd: 2260 kJ/mol
Atomic radius empirical:180  pm
Covalent radius 198±8 pm
Samarium spectrum visible.png
Spectral lines of samarium
Other properties
Natural occurrence primordial
Crystal structure rhombohedral (hR3)
Lattice constants
ar = 0.89834 nm
α = 23.307°
ah = 0.36291 nm
ch = 2.6207 nm (at 20 °C) [3]
Thermal expansion poly: 12.7 (at r.t.) µm/(m⋅K)
Thermal conductivity 13.3 W/(m⋅K)
Electrical resistivity α, poly: 0.940 (at r.t.) µΩ⋅m
Magnetic ordering paramagnetic [6]
Molar magnetic susceptibility +1860.0×10−6 cm3/mol(291 K) [7]
Young's modulus 49.7 GPa
Shear modulus 19.5 GPa
Bulk modulus 37.8 GPa
Speed of sound thin rod2130 m/s(at 20 °C)
Poisson ratio 0.274
Vickers hardness 410–440 MPa
Brinell hardness 440–600 MPa
CAS Number 7440-19-9
Namingafter the mineral samarskite (itself named after Vassili Samarsky-Bykhovets)
Discovery and first isolation Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1879)
Isotopes of samarium
Main isotopes [8] Decay
abun­dance half-life (t1/2) mode pro­duct
144Sm3.08% stable
145Sm synth 340 d ε 145Pm
146Smtrace1.03×108 y α 142Nd
147Sm 15%1.07×1011 yα 143Nd
148Sm11.3%6.3×1015 yα144Nd
151Smsynth94.6 y β 151Eu
153Smsynth46.28 hβ 153Eu
Symbol category class.svg  Category: Samarium
| references

Samarium is a chemical element; it has symbol Sm and atomic number 62. It is a moderately hard silvery metal that slowly oxidizes in air. Being a typical member of the lanthanide series, samarium usually has the oxidation state +3. Compounds of samarium(II) are also known, most notably the monoxide SmO, monochalcogenides SmS, SmSe and SmTe, as well as samarium(II) iodide.


Discovered in 1879 by French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, samarium was named after the mineral samarskite from which it was isolated. The mineral itself was named after a Russian mine official, Colonel Vassili Samarsky-Bykhovets, who thus became the first person to have a chemical element named after him, albeit indirectly.

Samarium occurs in concentration up to 2.8% in several minerals including cerite, gadolinite, samarskite, monazite and bastnäsite, the last two being the most common commercial sources of the element. These minerals are mostly found in China, the United States, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia; China is by far the world leader in samarium mining and production.

The main commercial use of samarium is in samarium–cobalt magnets, [9] which have permanent magnetization second only to neodymium magnets; however, samarium compounds can withstand significantly higher temperatures, above 700 °C (1,292 °F), without losing their permanent magnetic properties. The radioisotope samarium-153 is the active component of the drug samarium (153Sm) lexidronam (Quadramet), which kills cancer cells in lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and osteosarcoma. Another isotope, samarium-149, is a strong neutron absorber and so is added to control rods of nuclear reactors. It also forms as a decay product during the reactor operation and is one of the important factors considered in the reactor design and operation. Other uses of samarium include catalysis of chemical reactions, radioactive dating and X-ray lasers. Samarium(II) iodide, in particular, is a common reducing agent in chemical synthesis.

Samarium has no biological role; some samarium salts are slightly toxic. [10]

Physical properties

Samarium is a rare earth element with a hardness and density similar to zinc. With a boiling point of 1,794 °C (3,261 °F), samarium is the third most volatile lanthanide after ytterbium and europium and comparable in this respect to lead and barium; this helps separation of samarium from its ores. [11] [12] When freshly prepared, samarium has a silvery lustre, and takes on a duller appearance when oxidized in air. Samarium is calculated to have one of the largest atomic radii of the elements; with a radius of 238 pm, only potassium, praseodymium, barium, rubidium and caesium are larger. [13]

In ambient conditions, samarium has a rhombohedral structure (α form). Upon heating to 731 °C (1,348 °F), its crystal symmetry changes to hexagonal close-packed (hcp),; it has actual transition temperature depending on metal purity. Further heating to 922 °C (1,692 °F) transforms the metal into a body-centered cubic (bcc) phase. Heating to 300 °C (572 °F) plus compression to 40  kbar results in a double-hexagonally close-packed structure (dhcp). Higher pressure of the order of hundreds or thousands of kilobars induces a series of phase transformations, in particular with a tetragonal phase appearing at about 900 kbar. [14] In one study, the dhcp phase could be produced without compression, using a nonequilibrium annealing regime with a rapid temperature change between about 400 °C (752 °F) and 700 °C (1,292 °F), confirming the transient character of this samarium phase. Thin films of samarium obtained by vapor deposition may contain the hcp or dhcp phases in ambient conditions. [14]

Samarium and its sesquioxide are paramagnetic at room temperature. Their corresponding effective magnetic moments, below 2 bohr magnetons, are the third-lowest among lanthanides (and their oxides) after lanthanum and lutetium. The metal transforms to an antiferromagnetic state upon cooling to 14.8 K. [15] [16] Individual samarium atoms can be isolated by encapsulating them into fullerene molecules. [17] They can also be intercalated into the interstices of the bulk C60 to form a solid solution of nominal composition Sm3C60, which is superconductive at a temperature of 8 K. [18] Samarium doping of iron-based superconductors – a class of high-temperature superconductor – increases their transition to normal conductivity temperature up to 56 K, the highest value achieved so far in this series. [19]

Chemical properties

In air, samarium slowly oxidizes at room temperature and spontaneously ignites at 150 °C (302 °F). [10] [12] Even when stored under mineral oil, samarium gradually oxidizes and develops a grayish-yellow powder of the oxide-hydroxide mixture at the surface. The metallic appearance of a sample can be preserved by sealing it under an inert gas such as argon.

Samarium is quite electropositive and reacts slowly with cold water and rapidly with hot water to form samarium hydroxide: [20]

2Sm(s) + 6H2O(l) → 2Sm(OH)3(aq) + 3H2(g)

Samarium dissolves readily in dilute sulfuric acid to form solutions containing the yellow [21] to pale green Sm(III) ions, which exist as [Sm(OH2)9]3+ complexes: [20]

2Sm(s) + 3H2SO4(aq) → 2Sm3+(aq) + 3SO2−4(aq) + 3H2(g)

Samarium is one of the few lanthanides with a relatively accessible +2 oxidation state, alongside Eu and Yb. [22] Sm2+ ions are blood-red in aqueous solution. [23]


Formulacolorsymmetry space group No Pearson symbol a (pm)b (pm)c (pm)Zdensity,
Smsilverytrigonal [14] R3m166hR9362.9362.92621.397.52
Smsilveryhexagonal [14] P63/mmc194hP4362362116847.54
Smsilverytetragonal [24] I4/mmm139tI2240.2240.2423.1220.46
SmOgoldencubic [25] Fm3m225cF8494.3494.3494.349.15
Sm2O3trigonal [26] P3m1164hP5377.8377.859417.89
Sm2O3monoclinic [26] C2/m12mS301418362.4885.567.76
Sm2O3cubic [27] Ia3206cI80109310931093167.1
SmH2cubic [28] Fm3m225cF12537.73537.73537.7346.51
SmH3hexagonal [29] P3c1165hP24377.1377.1667.26
Sm2B5graymonoclinic [30] P21/c14mP28717.9718720.546.49
SmB2hexagonal [31] P6/mmm191hP3331331401.917.49
SmB4tetragonal [32] P4/mbm127tP20717.9717.9406.746.14
SmB6cubic [33] Pm3m221cP7413.4413.4413.415.06
SmB66cubic [34] Fm3c226cF19362348.72348.72348.7242.66
Sm2C3cubic [35] I43d220cI40839.89839.89839.8987.55
SmC2tetragonal [35] I4/mmm139tI6377377633.126.44
SmF2purple [36] cubic [37] Fm3m225cF12587.1587.1587.146.18
SmF3white [36] orthorhombic [37] Pnma62oP16667.22705.85440.4346.64
SmCl2brown [36] orthorhombic [38] Pnma62oP12756.28450.77901.0944.79
SmCl3yellow [36] hexagonal [37] P63/m176hP8737.33737.33416.8424.35
SmBr2brown [36] orthorhombic [39] Pnma62oP12797.7475.4950.645.72
SmBr3yellow [36] orthorhombic [40] Cmcm63oS16404126590825.58
SmI2green [36] monoclinicP21/c14mP12
SmI3orange [36] trigonal [41] R363hR24749749208065.24
SmNcubic [42] Fm3m225cF835735735748.48
SmPcubic [43] Fm3m225cF857657657646.3
SmAscubic [44] Fm3m225cF8591.5591.5591.547.23


The most stable oxide of samarium is the sesquioxide Sm2O3. Like many samarium compounds, it exists in several crystalline phases. The trigonal form is obtained by slow cooling from the melt. The melting point of Sm2O3 is high (2345 °C), so it is usually melted not by direct heating, but with induction heating, through a radio-frequency coil. Sm2O3 crystals of monoclinic symmetry can be grown by the flame fusion method (Verneuil process) from Sm2O3 powder, that yields cylindrical boules up to several centimeters long and about one centimeter in diameter. The boules are transparent when pure and defect-free and are orange otherwise. Heating the metastable trigonal Sm2O3 to 1,900 °C (3,450 °F) converts it to the more stable monoclinic phase. [26] Cubic Sm2O3 has also been described. [27]

Samarium is one of the few lanthanides that form a monoxide, SmO. This lustrous golden-yellow compound was obtained by reducing Sm2O3 with samarium metal at high temperature (1000 °C) and a pressure above 50 kbar; lowering the pressure resulted in incomplete reaction. SmO has cubic rock-salt lattice structure. [25] [45]


Samarium forms a trivalent sulfide, selenide and telluride. Divalent chalcogenides SmS, SmSe and SmTe with a cubic rock-salt crystal structure are known. These chalcogenides convert from a semiconducting to metallic state at room temperature upon application of pressure. [46] Whereas the transition is continuous and occurs at about 20–30 kbar in SmSe and SmTe, it is abrupt in SmS and requires only 6.5 kbar. This effect results in a spectacular color change in SmS from black to golden yellow when its crystals of films are scratched or polished. The transition does not change the lattice symmetry, but there is a sharp decrease (~15%) in the crystal volume. [47] It exhibits hysteresis, i.e., when the pressure is released, SmS returns to the semiconducting state at a much lower pressure of about 0.4 kbar. [10] [48]


Samarium trichloride Samarium(III) chloride hexahydrate.jpg
Samarium trichloride

Samarium metal reacts with all the halogens, forming trihalides: [49]

2 Sm (s) + 3 X2 (g) → 2 SmX3 (s) (X = F, Cl, Br or I)

Their further reduction with samarium, lithium or sodium metals at elevated temperatures (about 700–900 °C) yields the dihalides. [38] The diiodide can also be prepared by heating SmI3, or by reacting the metal with 1,2-diiodoethane in anhydrous tetrahydrofuran at room temperature: [50]

Sm (s) + ICH2-CH2I → SmI2 + CH2=CH2.

In addition to dihalides, the reduction also produces many non-stoichiometric samarium halides with a well-defined crystal structure, such as Sm3F7, Sm14F33, Sm27F64, [37] Sm11Br24, Sm5Br11 and Sm6Br13. [51]

Samarium halides change their crystal structures when one type of halide anion is substituted for another, which is an uncommon behavior for most elements (e.g. actinides). Many halides have two major crystal phases for one composition, one being significantly more stable and another being metastable. The latter is formed upon compression or heating, followed by quenching to ambient conditions. For example, compressing the usual monoclinic samarium diiodide and releasing the pressure results in a PbCl2-type orthorhombic structure (density 5.90 g/cm3), [52] and similar treatment results in a new phase of samarium triiodide (density 5.97 g/cm3). [53]


Sintering powders of samarium oxide and boron, in a vacuum, yields a powder containing several samarium boride phases; the ratio between these phases can be controlled through the mixing proportion. [54] The powder can be converted into larger crystals of samarium borides using arc melting or zone melting techniques, relying on the different melting/crystallization temperature of SmB6 (2580 °C), SmB4 (about 2300 °C) and SmB66 (2150 °C). All these materials are hard, brittle, dark-gray solids with the hardness increasing with the boron content. [33] Samarium diboride is too volatile to be produced with these methods and requires high pressure (about 65 kbar) and low temperatures between 1140 and 1240 °C to stabilize its growth. Increasing the temperature results in the preferential formation of SmB6. [31]

Samarium hexaboride

Samarium hexaboride is a typical intermediate-valence compound where samarium is present both as Sm2+ and Sm3+ ions in a 3:7 ratio. [54] It belongs to a class of Kondo insulators; at temperatures above 50 K, its properties are typical of a Kondo metal, with metallic electrical conductivity characterized by strong electron scattering, whereas at lower temperatures, it behaves as a non-magnetic insulator with a narrow band gap of about 4–14  meV. [55] The cooling-induced metal-insulator transition in SmB6 is accompanied by a sharp increase in the thermal conductivity, peaking at about 15 K. The reason for this increase is that electrons themselves do not contribute to the thermal conductivity at low temperatures, which is dominated by phonons, but the decrease in electron concentration reduces the rate of electron-phonon scattering. [56]

Other inorganic compounds

Samarium sulfate, Sm2(SO4)3 Samarium-sulfate.jpg
Samarium sulfate, Sm2(SO4)3

Samarium carbides are prepared by melting a graphite-metal mixture in an inert atmosphere. After the synthesis, they are unstable in air and need to be studied under an inert atmosphere. [35] Samarium monophosphide SmP is a semiconductor with a bandgap of 1.10 eV, the same as in silicon, and electrical conductivity of n-type. It can be prepared by annealing at 1,100 °C (2,010 °F) an evacuated quartz ampoule containing mixed powders of phosphorus and samarium. Phosphorus is highly volatile at high temperatures and may explode, thus the heating rate has to be kept well below 1 °C/min. [43] A similar procedure is adopted for the monarsenide SmAs, but the synthesis temperature is higher at 1,800 °C (3,270 °F). [44]

Numerous crystalline binary compounds are known for samarium and one of the group 14, 15, or 16 elements X, where X is Si, Ge, Sn, Pb, Sb or Te, and metallic alloys of samarium form another large group. They are all prepared by annealing mixed powders of the corresponding elements. Many of the resulting compounds are non-stoichiometric and have nominal compositions SmaXb, where the b/a ratio varies between 0.5 and 3. [57] [58]

Organometallic compounds

Samarium forms a cyclopentadienide Sm(C5H5)3 and its chloroderivatives Sm(C5H5)2Cl and Sm(C5H5)Cl2. They are prepared by reacting samarium trichloride with NaC5H5 in tetrahydrofuran. Contrary to cyclopentadienides of most other lanthanides, in Sm(C5H5)3 some C5H5 rings bridge each other by forming ring vertexes η1 or edges η2 toward another neighboring samarium, thus creating polymeric chains. [23] The chloroderivative Sm(C5H5)2Cl has a dimer structure, which is more accurately expressed as (η(5)−C5H5)2Sm(−Cl)2(η(5)−C5H5)2. There, the chlorine bridges can be replaced, for instance, by iodine, hydrogen or nitrogen atoms or by CN groups. [59]

The (C5H5) ion in samarium cyclopentadienides can be replaced by the indenide (C9H7) or cyclooctatetraenide (C8H8)2− ring, resulting in Sm(C9H7)3 or KSm(η(8)−C8H8)2. The latter compound has a structure similar to uranocene. There is also a cyclopentadienide of divalent samarium, Sm(C5H5)2 a solid that sublimates at about 85 °C (185 °F). Contrary to ferrocene, the C5H5 rings in Sm(C5H5)2 are not parallel but are tilted by 40°. [59] [60]

A metathesis reaction in tetrahydrofuran or ether gives alkyls and aryls of samarium: [59]

SmCl3 + 3LiR → SmR3 + 3LiCl
Sm(OR)3 + 3LiCH(SiMe3)2 → Sm{CH(SiMe3)2}3 + 3LiOR

Here R is a hydrocarbon group and Me = methyl.


Naturally occurring samarium is composed of five stable isotopes: 144Sm, 149Sm, 150Sm, 152Sm and 154Sm, and two extremely long-lived radioisotopes, 147Sm (half-life t1/2 = 1.06×1011 years) and 148Sm (7×1015 years), with 152Sm being the most abundant (26.75%). [8] 149Sm is listed by various sources as being stable, [8] [61] but some sources state that it is radioactive, [62] with a lower bound for its half-life given as 2×1015 years. [8] Some observationally stable samarium isotopes are predicted to decay to isotopes of neodymium. [63] The long-lived isotopes 146Sm, 147Sm, and 148Sm undergo alpha decay to neodymium isotopes. Lighter unstable isotopes of samarium mainly decay by electron capture to promethium, while heavier ones beta decay to europium. [8] The known isotopes range from 129Sm to 168Sm. [8] [64] The half-lives of 151Sm and 145Sm are 90 years and 340 days, respectively. All remaining radioisotopes have half-lives that are less than 2 days, and most these have half-life less than 48 seconds. Samarium also has twelve known nuclear isomers, the most stable of which are 141mSm (half-life 22.6 minutes), 143m1Sm (t1/2 = 66 seconds), and 139mSm (t1/2 = 10.7 seconds). [8] Natural samarium has a radioactivity of 127  Bq/g, mostly due to 147Sm, [65] which alpha decays to 143Nd with a half-life of 1.06×1011 years and is used in samarium–neodymium dating. [66] [67] 146Sm is an extinct radionuclide, with the half-life of 1.03×108 years. [68] There have been searches of samarium-146 as a primordial nuclide, because its half-life is long enough such that minute quantities of the element should persist today. [69] It can be used in radiometric dating. [70]

Samarium-149 is an observationally stable isotope of samarium (predicted to decay, but no decays have ever been observed, giving it a half-life at least several orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe), and a product of the decay chain from the fission product 149Nd (yield 1.0888%). 149Sm is a decay product and neutron-absorber in nuclear reactors, with a neutron poison effect that is second in importance for reactor design and operation only to 135Xe. [71] [72] Its neutron cross section is 41000 barns for thermal neutrons. [73] Because samarium-149 is not radioactive and is not removed by decay, it presents problems somewhat different from those encountered with xenon-135. The equilibrium concentration (and thus the poisoning effect) builds to an equilibrium value during reactor operations in about 500 hours (about three weeks), and since samarium-149 is stable, its concentration remains essentially constant during reactor operation. [74]

Chemical structure of Sm-EDTMP 153Sm-lexidronam structure.svg
Chemical structure of Sm-EDTMP

Samarium-153 is a beta emitter with a half-life of 46.3 hours. It is used to kill cancer cells in lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and osteosarcoma. For this purpose, samarium-153 is chelated with ethylene diamine tetramethylene phosphonate (EDTMP) and injected intravenously. The chelation prevents accumulation of radioactive samarium in the body that would result in excessive irradiation and generation of new cancer cells. [10] The corresponding drug has several names including samarium (153Sm) lexidronam; its trade name is Quadramet. [75] [76] [77]


Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, the discoverer of samarium Lecoq de Boisbaudran.jpg
Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, the discoverer of samarium

Detection of samarium and related elements was announced by several scientists in the second half of the 19th century; however, most sources give priority to French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran. [78] [79] Boisbaudran isolated samarium oxide and/or hydroxide in Paris in 1879 from the mineral samarskite ((Y,Ce,U,Fe)3(Nb,Ta,Ti)5O16) and identified a new element in it via sharp optical absorption lines. [12] Swiss chemist Marc Delafontaine announced a new element decipium (from Latin : decipiens meaning "deceptive, misleading") in 1878, [80] [81] but later in 1880–1881 demonstrated that it was a mix of several elements, one being identical to Boisbaudran's samarium. [82] [83] Though samarskite was first found in the Ural Mountains in Russia, by the late 1870s it had been found in other places, making it available to many researchers. In particular, it was found that the samarium isolated by Boisbaudran was also impure and had a comparable amount of europium. The pure element was produced only in 1901 by Eugène-Anatole Demarçay. [84] [85] [86] [87] [88]

Boisbaudran named his element samarium after the mineral samarskite, which in turn honored Vassili Samarsky-Bykhovets (1803–1870). Samarsky-Bykhovets, as the Chief of Staff of the Russian Corps of Mining Engineers, had granted access for two German mineralogists, the brothers Gustav and Heinrich Rose, to study the mineral samples from the Urals. [89] [90] [91] Samarium was thus the first chemical element to be named after a person. [84] [92] The word samaria is sometimes used to mean samarium(III) oxide, by analogy with yttria, zirconia, alumina, ceria, holmia, etc. The symbol Sm was suggested for samarium, but an alternative Sa was often used instead until the 1920s. [84] [93]

Before the advent of ion-exchange separation technology in the 1950s, pure samarium had no commercial uses. However, a by-product of fractional crystallization purification of neodymium was a mix of samarium and gadolinium that got the name "Lindsay Mix" after the company that made it, and was used for nuclear control rods in some early nuclear reactors. [94] Nowadays, a similar commodity product has the name "samarium-europium-gadolinium" (SEG) concentrate. [92] It is prepared by solvent extraction from the mixed lanthanides isolated from bastnäsite (or monazite). Since heavier lanthanides have more affinity for the solvent used, they are easily extracted from the bulk using relatively small proportions of solvent. Not all rare-earth producers who process bastnäsite do so on a large enough scale to continue by separating the components of SEG, which typically makes up only 12% of the original ore. Such producers therefore make SEG with a view to marketing it to the specialized processors. In this manner, the valuable europium in the ore is rescued for use in making phosphor. Samarium purification follows the removal of the europium. As of 2012, being in oversupply, samarium oxide is cheaper on a commercial scale than its relative abundance in the ore might suggest. [95]

Occurrence and production

Samarskite Samarskite-fresh.jpg

Samarium concentration in soils varies between 2 and 23 ppm, and oceans contain about 0.5–0.8 parts per trillion. [10] The median value for its abundance in the Earth's crust used by the CRC Handbook is 7 parts per million (ppm). [12] Distribution of samarium in soils strongly depends on its chemical state and is very inhomogeneous: in sandy soils, samarium concentration is about 200 times higher at the surface of soil particles than in the water trapped between them, and this ratio can exceed 1,000 in clays. [96]

Samarium is not found free in nature, but, like other rare earth elements, is contained in many minerals, including monazite, bastnäsite, cerite, gadolinite and samarskite; monazite (in which samarium occurs at concentrations of up to 2.8%) [12] and bastnäsite are mostly used as commercial sources. World resources of samarium are estimated at two million tonnes; they are mostly located in China, US, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia, and the annual production is about 700 tonnes. [10] Country production reports are usually given for all rare-earth metals combined. By far, China has the largest production with 120,000 tonnes mined per year; it is followed by the US (about 5,000 tonnes) [96] and India (2,700 tonnes). [97] Samarium is usually sold as oxide, which at the price of about US$30/kg is one of the cheapest lanthanide oxides. [95] Whereas mischmetal – a mixture of rare earth metals containing about 1% of samarium – has long been used, relatively pure samarium has been isolated only recently, through ion exchange processes, solvent extraction techniques, and electrochemical deposition. The metal is often prepared by electrolysis of a molten mixture of samarium(III) chloride with sodium chloride or calcium chloride. Samarium can also be obtained by reducing its oxide with lanthanum. The product is then distilled to separate samarium (boiling point 1794 °C) and lanthanum (b.p. 3464 °C). [79]

Very few minerals have samarium being the most dominant element. Minerals with essential (dominant) samarium include monazite-(Sm) and florencite-(Sm). These minerals are very rare and are usually found containing other elements, usually cerium or neodymium. [98] [99] [100] [101] Samarium-151 is produced in nuclear fission of uranium with a yield of about 0.4% of all fissions. It is also made by neutron capture by samarium-149, which is added to the control rods of nuclear reactors. Therefore, 151Sm is present in spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. [96]


Barbier reaction using
SmI2 Samariumiodide.jpg
Barbier reaction using SmI2


An important use of samarium is samarium–cobalt magnets, which are nominally SmCo5 or Sm2Co17. They have high permanent magnetization, about 10,000 times that of iron and second only to neodymium magnets. However, samarium magnets resist demagnetization better; they are stable to temperatures above 700 °C (1,292 °F) (cf. 300–400 °C for neodymium magnets). These magnets are found in small motors, headphones, and high-end magnetic pickups for guitars and related musical instruments. [10] For example, they are used in the motors of a solar-powered electric aircraft, the Solar Challenger, and in the Samarium Cobalt Noiseless electric guitar and bass pickups.

Chemical reagent

Samarium and its compounds are important as catalysts and chemical reagents. Samarium catalysts help the decomposition of plastics, dechlorination of pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), as well as dehydration and dehydrogenation of ethanol. [12] Samarium(III) triflate Sm(OTf)3, that is Sm(CF3SO3)3, is one of the most efficient Lewis acid catalysts for a halogen-promoted Friedel–Crafts reaction with alkenes. [102] Samarium(II) iodide is a very common reducing and coupling agent in organic synthesis, for example in desulfonylation reactions; annulation; Danishefsky, Kuwajima, Mukaiyama and Holton Taxol total syntheses; strychnine total synthesis; Barbier reaction and other reductions with samarium(II) iodide. [103]

In its usual oxidized form, samarium is added to ceramics and glasses where it increases absorption of infrared light. As a (minor) part of mischmetal, samarium is found in the "flint" ignition devices of many lighters and torches. [10] [12]

Neutron absorber

Samarium-149 has a high cross section for neutron capture (41,000  barns) and so is used in control rods of nuclear reactors. Its advantage compared to competing materials, such as boron and cadmium, is stability of absorption – most of the fusion products of 149Sm are other isotopes of samarium that are also good neutron absorbers. For example, the cross section of samarium-151 is 15,000 barns, it is on the order of hundreds of barns for 150Sm, 152Sm, and 153Sm, and 6,800 barns for natural (mixed-isotope) samarium. [12] [96] [104]


Samarium-doped calcium fluoride crystals were used as an active medium in one of the first solid-state lasers designed and built by Peter Sorokin (co-inventor of the dye laser) and Mirek Stevenson at IBM research labs in early 1961. This samarium laser gave pulses of red light at 708.5 nm. It had to be cooled by liquid helium and so did not find practical applications. [105] [106] Another samarium-based laser became the first saturated X-ray laser operating at wavelengths shorter than 10 nanometers. It gave 50-picosecond pulses at 7.3 and 6.8 nm suitable for uses in holography, high-resolution microscopy of biological specimens, deflectometry, interferometry, and radiography of dense plasmas related to confinement fusion and astrophysics. Saturated operation meant that the maximum possible power was extracted from the lasing medium, resulting in the high peak energy of 0.3 mJ. The active medium was samarium plasma produced by irradiating samarium-coated glass with a pulsed infrared Nd-glass laser (wavelength ~1.05 μm). [107]

Storage phosphor

In 2007 it was shown that nanocrystalline BaFCl:Sm3+ as prepared by co-precipitation can serve as a very efficient X-ray storage phosphor. [108] The co-precipitation leads to nanocrystallites of the order of 100–200 nm in size and their sensitivity as X-ray storage phosphors is increased a remarkable ~500,000 times because of the specific arrangements and density of defect centers in comparison with microcrystalline samples prepared by sintering at high temperature. [109] The mechanism is based on reduction of Sm3+ to Sm2+ by trapping electrons that are created upon exposure to ionizing radiation in the BaFCl host. The 5DJ7FJ f–f luminescence lines can be very efficiently excited via the parity allowed 4f6→4f55d transition at ~417 nm. The latter wavelength is ideal for efficient excitation by blue-violet laser diodes as the transition is electric dipole allowed and thus relatively intense (400 L/(mol⋅cm)). [110] The phosphor has potential applications in personal dosimetry, dosimetry and imaging in radiotherapy, and medical imaging. [111]

Non-commercial and potential uses

Biological role and precautions

Hazards [123]
GHS labelling:
P231+P232, P280, P370+P378, P501
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
NFPA 704.svgHealth 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g. chloroformFlammability 3: Liquids and solids that can be ignited under almost all ambient temperature conditions. Flash point between 23 and 38 °C (73 and 100 °F). E.g. gasolineInstability 2: Undergoes violent chemical change at elevated temperatures and pressures, reacts violently with water, or may form explosive mixtures with water. E.g. white phosphorusSpecial hazard W: Reacts with water in an unusual or dangerous manner. E.g. sodium, sulfuric acid

Samarium salts stimulate metabolism, but it is unclear whether this is from samarium or other lanthanides present with it. The total amount of samarium in adults is about 50  μg, mostly in liver and kidneys and with ~8 μg/L being dissolved in blood. Samarium is not absorbed by plants to a measurable concentration and so is normally not part of human diet. However, a few plants and vegetables may contain up to 1 part per million of samarium. Insoluble salts of samarium are non-toxic and the soluble ones are only slightly toxic. [10] [125] When ingested, only 0.05% of samarium salts are absorbed into the bloodstream and the remainder are excreted. From the blood, 45% goes to the liver and 45% is deposited on the surface of the bones where it remains for 10 years; the remaining 10% is excreted. [96]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berkelium</span> Chemical element, symbol Bk and atomic number 97

Berkelium is a synthetic chemical element; it has symbol Bk and atomic number 97. It is a member of the actinide and transuranium element series. It is named after the city of Berkeley, California, the location of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where it was discovered in December 1949. Berkelium was the fifth transuranium element discovered after neptunium, plutonium, curium and americium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dysprosium</span> Chemical element, symbol Dy and atomic number 66

Dysprosium is a chemical element; it has symbol Dy and atomic number 66. It is a rare-earth element in the lanthanide series with a metallic silver luster. Dysprosium is never found in nature as a free element, though, like other lanthanides, it is found in various minerals, such as xenotime. Naturally occurring dysprosium is composed of seven isotopes, the most abundant of which is 164Dy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Europium</span> Chemical element, symbol Eu and atomic number 63

Europium is a chemical element; it has symbol Eu and atomic number 63. Europium is a silvery-white metal of the lanthanide series that reacts readily with air to form a dark oxide coating. It is the most chemically reactive, least dense, and softest of the lanthanide elements. It is soft enough to be cut with a knife. Europium was isolated in 1901 and named after the continent of Europe. Europium usually assumes the oxidation state +3, like other members of the lanthanide series, but compounds having oxidation state +2 are also common. All europium compounds with oxidation state +2 are slightly reducing. Europium has no significant biological role and is relatively non-toxic compared to other heavy metals. Most applications of europium exploit the phosphorescence of europium compounds. Europium is one of the rarest of the rare-earth elements on Earth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gadolinium</span> Chemical element, symbol Gd and atomic number 64

Gadolinium is a chemical element; it has symbol Gd and atomic number 64. Gadolinium is a silvery-white metal when oxidation is removed. It is a malleable and ductile rare-earth element. Gadolinium reacts with atmospheric oxygen or moisture slowly to form a black coating. Gadolinium below its Curie point of 20 °C (68 °F) is ferromagnetic, with an attraction to a magnetic field higher than that of nickel. Above this temperature it is the most paramagnetic element. It is found in nature only in an oxidized form. When separated, it usually has impurities of the other rare-earths because of their similar chemical properties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holmium</span> Chemical element, symbol Ho and atomic number 67

Holmium is a chemical element; it has symbol Ho and atomic number 67. It is a rare-earth element and the eleventh member of the lanthanide series. It is a relatively soft, silvery, fairly corrosion-resistant and malleable metal. Like many other lanthanides, holmium is too reactive to be found in native form, as pure holmium slowly forms a yellowish oxide coating when exposed to air. When isolated, holmium is relatively stable in dry air at room temperature. However, it reacts with water and corrodes readily, and also burns in air when heated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lanthanum</span> Chemical element, symbol La and atomic number 57

Lanthanum is a chemical element; it has symbol La and atomic number 57. It is a soft, ductile, silvery-white metal that tarnishes slowly when exposed to air. It is the eponym of the lanthanide series, a group of 15 similar elements between lanthanum and lutetium in the periodic table, of which lanthanum is the first and the prototype. Lanthanum is traditionally counted among the rare earth elements. Like most other rare earth elements, the usual oxidation state is +3, although some compounds are known with an oxidation state of +2. Lanthanum has no biological role in humans but is essential to some bacteria. It is not particularly toxic to humans but does show some antimicrobial activity.

The lanthanide or lanthanoid series of chemical elements comprises at least the 14 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers 57–70, from lanthanum through ytterbium. In the periodic table, they fill the 4f orbitals. Lutetium is also sometimes considered a lanthanide, despite being a d-block element and a transition metal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Neodymium</span> Chemical element, symbol Nd and atomic number 60

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Promethium</span> Chemical element, symbol Pm and atomic number 61

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Terbium</span> Chemical element, symbol Tb and atomic number 65

Terbium is a chemical element; it has the symbol Tb and atomic number 65. It is a silvery-white, rare earth metal that is malleable, and ductile. The ninth member of the lanthanide series, terbium is a fairly electropositive metal that reacts with water, evolving hydrogen gas. Terbium is never found in nature as a free element, but it is contained in many minerals, including cerite, gadolinite, monazite, xenotime and euxenite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thulium</span> Chemical element, symbol Tm and atomic number 69

Thulium is a chemical element; it has symbol Tm and atomic number 69. It is the thirteenth element in the lanthanide series of metals. It is the second-least abundant lanthanide in the Earth's crust, after radioactively unstable promethium. It is an easily workable metal with a bright silvery-gray luster. It is fairly soft and slowly tarnishes in air. Despite its high price and rarity, thulium is used as a dopant in solid-state lasers, and as the radiation source in some portable X-ray devices. It has no significant biological role and is not particularly toxic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ytterbium</span> Chemical element, symbol Yb and atomic number 70

Ytterbium is a chemical element; it has symbol Yb and atomic number 70. It is a metal, the fourteenth and penultimate element in the lanthanide series, which is the basis of the relative stability of its +2 oxidation state. Like the other lanthanides, its most common oxidation state is +3, as in its oxide, halides, and other compounds. In aqueous solution, like compounds of other late lanthanides, soluble ytterbium compounds form complexes with nine water molecules. Because of its closed-shell electron configuration, its density, melting point and boiling point are much lower than those of most other lanthanides.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monazite</span> Mineral containing rare-earth elements

Monazite is a primarily reddish-brown phosphate mineral that contains rare-earth elements. Due to variability in composition, monazite is considered a group of minerals. The most common species of the group is monazite-(Ce), that is, the cerium-dominant member of the group. It occurs usually in small isolated crystals. It has a hardness of 5.0 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and is relatively dense, about 4.6 to 5.7 g/cm3. There are five different most common species of monazite, depending on the relative amounts of the rare earth elements in the mineral:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bastnäsite</span> Family of minerals

The mineral bastnäsite (or bastnaesite) is one of a family of three carbonate-fluoride minerals, which includes bastnäsite-(Ce) with a formula of (Ce, La)CO3F, bastnäsite-(La) with a formula of (La, Ce)CO3F, and bastnäsite-(Y) with a formula of (Y, Ce)CO3F. Some of the bastnäsites contain OH instead of F and receive the name of hydroxylbastnasite. Most bastnäsite is bastnäsite-(Ce), and cerium is by far the most common of the rare earths in this class of minerals. Bastnäsite and the phosphate mineral monazite are the two largest sources of cerium and other rare-earth elements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Praseodymium</span> Chemical element, symbol Pr and atomic number 59

Praseodymium is a chemical element; it has symbol Pr and the atomic number 59. It is the third member of the lanthanide series and is considered one of the rare-earth metals. It is a soft, silvery, malleable and ductile metal, valued for its magnetic, electrical, chemical, and optical properties. It is too reactive to be found in native form, and pure praseodymium metal slowly develops a green oxide coating when exposed to air.

Neodymium(III) chloride or neodymium trichloride is a chemical compound of neodymium and chlorine with the formula NdCl3. This anhydrous compound is a mauve-colored solid that rapidly absorbs water on exposure to air to form a purple-colored hexahydrate, NdCl3·6H2O. Neodymium(III) chloride is produced from minerals monazite and bastnäsite using a complex multistage extraction process. The chloride has several important applications as an intermediate chemical for production of neodymium metal and neodymium-based lasers and optical fibers. Other applications include a catalyst in organic synthesis and in decomposition of waste water contamination, corrosion protection of aluminium and its alloys, and fluorescent labeling of organic molecules (DNA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samarium(III) chloride</span> Chemical compound

Samarium(III) chloride, also known as samarium trichloride, is an inorganic compound of samarium and chloride. It is a pale yellow salt that rapidly absorbs water to form a hexahydrate, SmCl3.6H2O. The compound has few practical applications but is used in laboratories for research on new compounds of samarium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yttrium</span> Chemical element, symbol Y and atomic number 39

Yttrium is a chemical element; it has symbol Y and atomic number 39. It is a silvery-metallic transition metal chemically similar to the lanthanides and has often been classified as a "rare-earth element". Yttrium is almost always found in combination with lanthanide elements in rare-earth minerals and is never found in nature as a free element. 89Y is the only stable isotope and the only isotope found in the Earth's crust.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cerium</span> Chemical element, symbol Ce and atomic number 58

Cerium is a chemical element; it has symbol Ce and atomic number 58. Cerium is a soft, ductile, and silvery-white metal that tarnishes when exposed to air. Cerium is the second element in the lanthanide series, and while it often shows the oxidation state of +3 characteristic of the series, it also has a stable +4 state that does not oxidize water. It is also considered one of the rare-earth elements. Cerium has no known biological role in humans but is not particularly toxic, except with intense or continued exposure.

Samarium compounds are compounds formed by the lanthanide metal samarium (Sm). In these compounds, samarium generally exhibits the +3 oxidation state, such as SmCl3, Sm(NO3)3 and Sm(C2O4)3. Compounds with samarium in the +2 oxidation state are also known, for example SmI2.


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