Many of technetium's properties were predicted by Dmitri Mendeleev before the element was discovered. Mendeleev noted a gap in his periodic table and gave the undiscovered element the provisional name ekamanganese (Em). In 1937, technetium (specifically the technetium-97 isotope) became the first predominantly artificial element to be produced, hence its name (from the Greek τεχνητός, meaning "synthetic or artificial", + -ium).
From the 1860s through 1871, early forms of the periodic table proposed by Dmitri Mendeleev contained a gap between molybdenum (element 42) and ruthenium (element 44). In 1871, Mendeleev predicted this missing element would occupy the empty place below manganese and have similar chemical properties. Mendeleev gave it the provisional name ekamanganese (from eka-, the Sanskrit word for one) because the predicted element was one place down from the known element manganese.
Many early researchers, both before and after the periodic table was published, were eager to be the first to discover and name the missing element. Its location in the table suggested that it should be easier to find than other undiscovered elements.
Rhenium, which was the then unknown dvi-manganese
Periodisches System der Elemente (1904–1945, now at the Gdańsk University of Technology): lack of elements: 84 polonium Po (though discovered as early as in 1898 by Maria Sklodowska-Curie), 85 astatine At (1940, in Berkeley), 87 francium Fr (1939, in France), 93 neptunium Np (1940, in Berkeley) and other actinides and lanthanides. Old symbols for: 18 argon Ar (here: A), 43 technetium Tc (Ma, masurium, 1925, dismissed as an error and finally confirmed in 1937, Palermo), 54 xenon Xe (X), 86 radon, Rn (Em, emanation)
German chemists Walter Noddack, Otto Berg, and Ida Tacke reported the discovery of element 75 and element 43 in 1925, and named element 43 masurium (after Masuria in eastern Prussia, now in Poland, the region where Walter Noddack's family originated). The group bombarded columbite with a beam of electrons and deduced element 43 was present by examining X-ray emission spectrograms. The wavelength of the X-rays produced is related to the atomic number by a formula derived by Henry Moseley in 1913. The team claimed to detect a faint X-ray signal at a wavelength produced by element 43. Later experimenters could not replicate the discovery, and it was dismissed as an error for many years. Still, in 1933, a series of articles on the discovery of elements quoted the name masurium for element 43.[note 1] Whether the 1925 team actually did discover element 43 is still debated.
Segrè enlisted his colleague Perrier to attempt to prove, through comparative chemistry, that the molybdenum activity was indeed from an element with the atomic number 43. In 1937, they succeeded in isolating the isotopestechnetium-95m and technetium-97. University of Palermo officials wanted them to name their discovery "panormium", after the Latin name for Palermo, Panormus. In 1947 element 43 was named after the Greek word τεχνητός, meaning "artificial", since it was the first element to be artificially produced. Segrè returned to Berkeley and met Glenn T. Seaborg. They isolated the metastable isotopetechnetium-99m, which is now used in some ten million medical diagnostic procedures annually.
Technetium can catalyse the destruction of hydrazine by nitric acid, and this property is due to its multiplicity of valencies. This caused a problem in the separation of plutonium from uranium in nuclear fuel processing, where hydrazine is used as a protective reductant to keep plutonium in the trivalent rather than the more stable tetravalent state. The problem was exacerbated by the mutually-enhanced solvent extraction of technetium and zirconium at the previous stage, and required a process modification.
Pertechnetate and derivatives
Pertechnetate is one of the most available forms of technetium. It is structurally related to permanganate.
The most prevalent form of technetium that is easily accessible is sodium pertechnetate, Na[TcO4]. The majority of this material is produced by radioactive decay from [99MoO4]2−:
HTcO4 is a strong acid. In concentrated sulfuric acid, [TcO4]− converts to the octahedral form TcO3(OH)(H2O)2, the conjugate base of the hypothetical triaquo complex [TcO3(H2O)3]+.
Other chalcogenide derivatives
Technetium forms a dioxide,disulfide, diselenide, and ditelluride. An ill-defined Tc2S7 forms upon treating pertechnate with hydrogen sulfide. It thermally decomposes into disulfide and elemental sulfur. Similarly the dioxide can be produced by reduction of the Tc2O7.
Unlike the case for rhenium, a trioxide has not been isolated for technetium. However, TcO3 has been identified in the gas phase using mass spectrometry.
The following binary (containing only two elements) technetium halides are known: TcF6, TcF5, TcCl4, TcBr4, TcBr3, α-TcCl3, β-TcCl3, TcI3, α-TcCl2, and β-TcCl2. The oxidation states range from Tc(VI) to Tc(II). Technetium halides exhibit different structure types, such as molecular octahedral complexes, extended chains, layered sheets, and metal clusters arranged in a three-dimensional network. These compounds are produced by combining the metal and halogen or by less direct reactions.
TcCl4 is obtained by chlorination of Tc metal or Tc2O7 Upon heating, TcCl4 gives the corresponding Tc(III) and Tc(II) chlorides.
TcCl4 → α-TcCl3 + 1/2 Cl2
TcCl3 → β-TcCl2 + 1/2 Cl2
TcCl4 forms chain-like structures, similar to the behavior of several other metal tetrachlorides.
The structure of TcCl4 is composed of infinite zigzag chains of edge-sharing TcCl6 octahedra. It is isomorphous to transition metal tetrachlorides of zirconium, hafnium, and platinum.
Two polymorphs of technetium trichloride exist, α- and β-TcCl3. The α polymorph is also denoted as Tc3Cl9. It adopts a confacial bioctahedral structure. It is prepared by treating the chloro-acetate Tc2(O2CCH3)4Cl2 with HCl. Like Re3Cl9, the structure of the α-polymorph consists of triangles with short M-M distances. β-TcCl3 features octahedral Tc centers, which are organized in pairs, as seen also for molybdenum trichloride. TcBr3 does not adopt the structure of either trichloride phase. Instead it has the structure of molybdenum tribromide, consisting of chains of confacial octahedra with alternating short and long Tc—Tc contacts. TcI3 has the same structure as the high temperature phase of TiI3, featuring chains of confacial octahedra with equal Tc—Tc contacts.
Several anionic technetium halides are known. The binary tetrahalides can be converted to the hexahalides [TcX6]2− (X = F, Cl, Br, I), which adopt octahedral molecular geometry. More reduced halides form anionic clusters with Tc–Tc bonds. The situation is similar for the related elements of Mo, W, Re. These clusters have the nuclearity Tc4, Tc6, Tc8, and Tc13. The more stable Tc6 and Tc8 clusters have prism shapes where vertical pairs of Tc atoms are connected by triple bonds and the planar atoms by single bonds. Every technetium atom makes six bonds, and the remaining valence electrons can be saturated by one axial and two bridging ligand halogen atoms such as chlorine or bromine.
Technetium forms a variety of compounds with Tc–C bonds, i.e. organotechnetium complexes. Prominent members of this class are complexes with CO, arene, and cyclopentadienyl ligands. The binary carbonyl Tc2(CO)10 is a white volatile solid. In this molecule, two technetium atoms are bound to each other; each atom is surrounded by octahedra of five carbonyl ligands. The bond length between technetium atoms, 303 pm, is significantly larger than the distance between two atoms in metallic technetium (272 pm). Similar carbonyls are formed by technetium's congeners, manganese and rhenium. Interest in organotechnetium compounds has also been motivated by applications in nuclear medicine. Unusual for other metal carbonyls, Tc forms aquo-carbonyl complexes, prominent being [Tc(CO)3(H2O)3]+.
Technetium, with atomic number (denoted Z) 43, is the lowest-numbered element in the periodic table for which all isotopes are radioactive. The second-lightest exclusively radioactive element, promethium, has an atomic number of 61.Atomic nuclei with an odd number of protons are less stable than those with even numbers, even when the total number of nucleons (protons + neutrons) is even, and odd numbered elements have fewer stable isotopes.
The most stable radioactive isotopes are technetium-97 with a half-life of 4.21 million years, technetium-98 with 4.2 million years, and technetium-99 with 211,100 years. Thirty other radioisotopes have been characterized with mass numbers ranging from 85 to 118. Most of these have half-lives that are less than an hour, the exceptions being technetium-93 (2.73 hours), technetium-94 (4.88 hours), technetium-95 (20 hours), and technetium-96 (4.3 days).
Technetium also has numerous nuclear isomers, which are isotopes with one or more excited nucleons. Technetium-97m (97mTc; "m" stands for metastability) is the most stable, with a half-life of 91 days and excitation energy 0.0965 MeV. This is followed by technetium-95m (61 days, 0.03 MeV), and technetium-99m (6.01 hours, 0.142 MeV). Technetium-99m emits only gamma rays and decays to technetium-99.
Technetium-99 (99Tc) is a major product of the fission of uranium-235 (235U), making it the most common and most readily available isotope of technetium. One gram of technetium-99 produces 6.2×108 disintegrations per second (in other words, the specific activity of 99Tc is 0.62 GBq/g).
Occurrence and production
Technetium occurs naturally in the Earth's crust in minute concentrations of about 0.003 parts per trillion. Technetium is so rare because the half-lives of 97Tc and 98Tc are only 4.2 million years. More than a thousand of such periods have passed since the formation of the Earth, so the probability for the survival of even one atom of primordial technetium is effectively zero. However, small amounts exist as spontaneous fission products in uranium ores. A kilogram of uranium contains an estimated 1 nanogram (10−9 g) of technetium. Some red giant stars with the spectral types S-, M-, and N contain a spectral absorption line indicating the presence of technetium. These red-giants are known informally as technetium stars.
Technetium-99 is produced by the nuclear fission of both uranium-235 and plutonium-239. It is therefore present in radioactive waste and in the nuclear fallout of fission bomb explosions. Its decay, measured in becquerels per amount of spent fuel, is the dominant contributor to nuclear waste radioactivity after about 104 to 106 years after the creation of the nuclear waste. From 1945 to 1994, an estimated 160 TBq (about 250 kg) of technetium-99 was released into the environment during atmospheric nuclear tests. The amount of technetium-99 from nuclear reactors released into the environment up to 1986 is on the order of 1000 TBq (about 1600 kg), primarily by nuclear fuel reprocessing; most of this was discharged into the sea. Reprocessing methods have reduced emissions since then, but as of 2005 the primary release of technetium-99 into the environment is by the Sellafield plant, which released an estimated 550 TBq (about 900 kg) from 1995–1999 into the Irish Sea. From 2000 onwards the amount has been limited by regulation to 90 TBq (about 140 kg) per year. Discharge of technetium into the sea resulted in contamination of some seafood with minuscule quantities of this element. For example, European lobster and fish from west Cumbria contain about 1 Bq/kg of technetium.[note 4]
Because used fuel is allowed to stand for several years before reprocessing, all molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m is decayed by the time that the fission products are separated from the major actinides in conventional nuclear reprocessing. The liquid left after plutonium–uranium extraction (PUREX) contains a high concentration of technetium as TcO− 4 but almost all of this is technetium-99, not technetium-99m.
The vast majority of the technetium-99m used in medical work is produced by irradiating dedicated highly enriched uranium targets in a reactor, extracting molybdenum-99 from the targets in reprocessing facilities, and recovering at the diagnostic center the technetium-99m produced upon decay of molybdenum-99. Molybdenum-99 in the form of molybdate MoO2− 4 is adsorbed onto acid alumina (Al 2O 3) in a shieldedcolumn chromatograph inside a technetium-99m generator ("technetium cow", also occasionally called a "molybdenum cow"). Molybdenum-99 has a half-life of 67 hours, so short-lived technetium-99m (half-life: 6 hours), which results from its decay, is being constantly produced. The soluble pertechnetateTcO− 4 can then be chemically extracted by elution using a saline solution. A drawback of this process is that it requires targets containing uranium-235, which are subject to the security precautions of fissile materials.
The first technetium-99m generator, unshielded, 1958. A Tc-99m pertechnetate solution is being eluted from Mo-99 molybdate bound to a chromatographic substrate
The long half-life of technetium-99 and its potential to form anionic species creates a major concern for long-term disposal of radioactive waste. Many of the processes designed to remove fission products in reprocessing plants aim at cationic species such as caesium (e.g., caesium-137) and strontium (e.g., strontium-90). Hence the pertechnetate escapes through those processes. Current disposal options favor burial in continental, geologically stable rock. The primary danger with such practice is the likelihood that the waste will contact water, which could leach radioactive contamination into the environment. The anionic pertechnetate and iodide tend not to adsorb into the surfaces of minerals, and are likely to be washed away. By comparison plutonium, uranium, and caesium tend to bind to soil particles. Technetium could be immobilized by some environments, such as microbial activity in lake bottom sediments, and the environmental chemistry of technetium is an area of active research.
An alternative disposal method, transmutation, has been demonstrated at CERN for technetium-99. In this process, the technetium (technetium-99 as a metal target) is bombarded with neutrons to form the short-lived technetium-100 (half-life = 16 seconds) which decays by beta decay to ruthenium-100. If recovery of usable ruthenium is a goal, an extremely pure technetium target is needed; if small traces of the minor actinides such as americium and curium are present in the target, they are likely to undergo fission and form more fission products which increase the radioactivity of the irradiated target. The formation of ruthenium-106 (half-life 374 days) from the 'fresh fission' is likely to increase the activity of the final ruthenium metal, which will then require a longer cooling time after irradiation before the ruthenium can be used.
The actual separation of technetium-99 from spent nuclear fuel is a long process. During fuel reprocessing, it comes out as a component of the highly radioactive waste liquid. After sitting for several years, the radioactivity reduces to a level where extraction of the long-lived isotopes, including technetium-99, becomes feasible. A series of chemical processes yields technetium-99 metal of high purity.
Molybdenum-99, which decays to form technetium-99m, can be formed by the neutron activation of molybdenum-98. When needed, other technetium isotopes are not produced in significant quantities by fission, but are manufactured by neutron irradiation of parent isotopes (for example, technetium-97 can be made by neutron irradiation of ruthenium-96).
The feasibility of technetium-99m production with the 22-MeV-proton bombardment of a molybdenum-100 target in medical cyclotrons following the reaction 100Mo(p,2n)99mTc was demonstrated in 1971. The recent shortages of medical technetium-99m reignited the interest in its production by proton bombardment of isotopically-enriched (>99.5%) molybdenum-100 targets. Other techniques are being investigated for obtaining molybdenum-99 from molybdenum-100 via (n,2n) or (γ,n) reactions in particle accelerators.
Technetium-99m ("m" indicates that this is a metastable nuclear isomer) is used in radioactive isotope medical tests. For example, Technetium-99m is a radioactive tracer that medical imaging equipment tracks in the human body. It is well suited to the role because it emits readily detectable 140 keVgamma rays, and its half-life is 6.01 hours (meaning that about 94% of it decays to technetium-99 in 24 hours). The chemistry of technetium allows it to be bound to a variety of biochemical compounds, each of which determines how it is metabolized and deposited in the body, and this single isotope can be used for a multitude of diagnostic tests. More than 50 common radiopharmaceuticals are based on technetium-99m for imaging and functional studies of the brain, heart muscle, thyroid, lungs, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, skeleton, blood, and tumors.
The longer-lived isotope, technetium-95m with a half-life of 61 days, is used as a radioactive tracer to study the movement of technetium in the environment and in plant and animal systems.
Industrial and chemical
Technetium-99 decays almost entirely by beta decay, emitting beta particles with consistent low energies and no accompanying gamma rays. Moreover, its long half-life means that this emission decreases very slowly with time. It can also be extracted to a high chemical and isotopic purity from radioactive waste. For these reasons, it is a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standard beta emitter, and is used for equipment calibration. Technetium-99 has also been proposed for optoelectronic devices and nanoscalenuclear batteries.
When steel is immersed in water, adding a small concentration (55 ppm) of potassium pertechnetate(VII) to the water protects the steel from corrosion, even if the temperature is raised to 250 °C (523 K). For this reason, pertechnetate has been used as an anodic corrosion inhibitor for steel, although technetium's radioactivity poses problems that limit this application to self-contained systems. While (for example) CrO2− 4 can also inhibit corrosion, it requires a concentration ten times as high. In one experiment, a specimen of carbon steel was kept in an aqueous solution of pertechnetate for 20 years and was still uncorroded. The mechanism by which pertechnetate prevents corrosion is not well understood, but seems to involve the reversible formation of a thin surface layer (passivation). One theory holds that the pertechnetate reacts with the steel surface to form a layer of technetium dioxide which prevents further corrosion; the same effect explains how iron powder can be used to remove pertechnetate from water. The effect disappears rapidly if the concentration of pertechnetate falls below the minimum concentration or if too high a concentration of other ions is added.
As noted, the radioactive nature of technetium (3 MBq/L at the concentrations required) makes this corrosion protection impractical in almost all situations. Nevertheless, corrosion protection by pertechnetate ions was proposed (but never adopted) for use in boiling water reactors.
Technetium plays no natural biological role and is not normally found in the human body. Technetium is produced in quantity by nuclear fission, and spreads more readily than many radionuclides. It appears to have low chemical toxicity. For example, no significant change in blood formula, body and organ weights, and food consumption could be detected for rats which ingested up to 15 µg of technetium-99 per gram of food for several weeks. The radiological toxicity of technetium (per unit of mass) is a function of compound, type of radiation for the isotope in question, and the isotope's half-life.
All isotopes of technetium must be handled carefully. The most common isotope, technetium-99, is a weak beta emitter; such radiation is stopped by the walls of laboratory glassware. The primary hazard when working with technetium is inhalation of dust; such radioactive contamination in the lungs can pose a significant cancer risk. For most work, careful handling in a fume hood is sufficient, and a glove box is not needed.
^In 1998 John T. Armstrong of the National Institute of Standards and Technology ran "computer simulations" of the 1925 experiments and obtained results quite close to those reported by the Noddack team. "Using first-principles X-ray-emission spectral-generation algorithms developed at NIST, I simulated the X-ray spectra that would be expected for Van Assche's initial estimates of the Noddacks' residue compositions. The first results were surprisingly close to their published spectrum! Over the next couple of years, we refined our reconstruction of their analytical methods and performed more sophisticated simulations. The agreement between simulated and reported spectra improved further. Our calculation of the amount of element 43 required to produce their spectrum is quite similar to the direct measurements of natural technetium abundance in uranium ore published in 1999 by Dave Curtis and colleagues at Los Alamos. We can find no other plausible explanation for the Noddacks' data than that they did indeed detect fission "masurium." Armstrong, J. T. (2003). "Technetium". Chemical & Engineering News. 81 (36): 110. doi:10.1021/cen-v081n036.p110.
^Irregular crystals and trace impurities raise this transition temperature to 11.2 K for 99.9% pure technetium powder.(Schwochau 2000, p. 96)
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^Desmet, G.; Myttenaere, C.; Commission of the European Communities. Radiation Protection Programme, France. Service d'études et de recherches sur l'environnement, United States. Dept. of Energy. Office of Health and Environmental Research (1986). Technetium in the environment. Springer. pp. 392–395. ISBN978-0-85334-421-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)