Gadolinium is a chemical element with symbol Gd and atomic number 64. Gadolinium is a silvery-white, malleable, and ductile rare earth metal. It is found in nature only in oxidized form, and even when separated, it usually has impurities of the other rare earths. Gadolinium was discovered in 1880 by Jean Charles de Marignac, who detected its oxide by using spectroscopy. It is named after the mineral gadolinite, one of the minerals in which gadolinium is found, itself named for the chemist Johan Gadolin. Pure gadolinium was first isolated by the chemist Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran around 1886.
Gadolinium possesses unusual metallurgical properties, to the extent that as little as 1% of gadolinium can significantly improve the workability and resistance to oxidation at high temperatures of iron, chromium, and related metals. Gadolinium as a metal or a salt absorbs neutrons and is, therefore, used sometimes for shielding in neutron radiography and in nuclear reactors.
Like most of the rare earths, gadolinium forms trivalent ions with fluorescent properties, and salts of gadolinium(III) are used as phosphors in various applications.
The kinds of gadolinium(III) ions occurring in water-soluble salts are toxic to mammals. However, chelated gadolinium(III) compounds are far less toxic because they carry gadolinium(III) through the kidneys and out of the body before the free ion can be released into the tissues. Because of its paramagnetic properties, solutions of chelated organic gadolinium complexes are used as intravenously administered gadolinium-based MRI contrast agents in medical magnetic resonance imaging.
Gadolinium is a silvery-white malleable and ductile rare earth metal. It crystallizes in hexagonal, in the close-packed α-form at room temperature, but, when heated to temperatures above 1235 °C, it transforms into its β-form, which has a body-centered cubic structure.
The isotope gadolinium-157 has the highest thermal-neutron capture cross-section among any stable nuclide: about 259,000 barns. Only xenon-135 has a higher capture cross-section, about 2.0 million barns, but this isotope is radioactive.
Gadolinium is believed to be ferromagnetic at temperatures below 20 °C (68 °F)and is strongly paramagnetic above this temperature. There is evidence that gadolinium is a helical antiferromagnetic, rather than a ferromagnetic, below 20 °C (68 °F). Gadolinium demonstrates a magnetocaloric effect whereby its temperature increases when it enters a magnetic field and decreases when it leaves the magnetic field. The temperature is lowered to 5 °C (41 °F) for the gadolinium alloy Gd85Er15, and this effect is considerably stronger for the alloy Gd5(Si2Ge2), but at a much lower temperature (<85 K (−188.2 °C; −306.7 °F)). A significant magnetocaloric effect is observed at higher temperatures, up to about 300 kelvins, in the compounds Gd5(SixGe1−x)4.
Individual gadolinium atoms can be isolated by encapsulating them into fullerene molecules, where they can be visualized with transmission electron microscope. Individual Gd atoms and small Gd clusters can be incorporated into carbon nanotubes.