[Xe] 4f15d16s2
2, 8, 18, 19, 9, 2
799°C, 1470°F, 1072 K
3443°C, 6229°F, 3716 K
Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Wilhelm Hisinger
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Uses and Properties

Image Explanation

Cerium, constituting just under 50% of the mischmetal alloy, finds its primary application in the production of 'flints' used for cigarette lighters.


Cerium is a grey metal. It is little used because it tarnishes easily, reacts with water and burns when heated.


Harnessing the Power of Cerium: A Versatile Element Shaping Modern Innovation

Nestled among the rare earth elements, Cerium (Ce) stands as a silent powerhouse, contributing to a myriad of industries and technological advancements. With its atomic number 58, Cerium has emerged as a versatile element with a fascinating array of applications, from catalysis to electronics, and even in the realm of sustainable energy.


Cerium in Catalysis

One of the prominent roles that Cerium plays is in the field of catalysis. Its unique properties, including its ability to switch between different oxidation states, make it an ideal catalyst in various chemical processes. Cerium oxide, in particular, is widely used in automotive catalytic converters to facilitate the conversion of harmful pollutants into less toxic substances. This pivotal application not only helps in reducing emissions but also showcases Cerium's contribution to environmental sustainability.


Electronics and Cerium

Cerium has etched its mark in the world of electronics, demonstrating its importance in the manufacturing of electronic devices. Cerium compounds find use in the production of phosphors for color television tubes and LED displays. Additionally, Cerium is employed in the fabrication of certain types of memory devices, contributing to the efficiency and performance of electronic systems.


Cerium in Glass and Ceramics

The applications of Cerium extend into the realm of glass and ceramics, where its unique properties play a transformative role. Cerium oxide, known for its high refractive index and light-scattering properties, is incorporated into glass polishing compounds. This makes it an essential component in the production of precision optics, camera lenses, and even telescope mirrors. In the ceramic industry, Cerium compounds are utilized as additives to enhance the durability and stability of ceramic materials.


Sustainable Energy

Cerium in Renewable Technologies: As the world shifts towards sustainable energy solutions, Cerium has emerged as a key player in the development of renewable technologies. Cerium-containing compounds are employed in the manufacturing of catalysts for fuel cells, a technology with the potential to revolutionize clean energy production. The use of Cerium in fuel cell technology enhances the efficiency of energy conversion, making it a promising candidate for a greener and more sustainable future.


Cerium in Metallurgy

Metallurgy is yet another domain where Cerium showcases its versatility. Cerium is used as a nodulizer in the production of nodular cast iron, a material prized for its strength and ductility. The addition of Cerium to the iron alloy results in improved mechanical properties, making it a valuable component in the automotive and construction industries.

Healthcare Applications: Cerium compounds have found applications in the healthcare sector as well. Cerium nitrate, for example, is used as an antiemetic to alleviate nausea and vomiting in certain medical conditions. The unique pharmacological properties of Cerium compounds contribute to their effectiveness in providing relief to patients undergoing specific medical treatments.



In the tapestry of elements that shape our world, Cerium emerges as a versatile and indispensable thread. Its diverse applications, from catalysis to electronics, glass manufacturing to sustainable energy, underscore its significance in modern innovation. As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, Cerium continues to play a crucial role in advancing technology, promoting environmental sustainability, and contributing to the betterment of industries across the globe. The story of Cerium is one of adaptability and innovation, a testament to the transformative power of rare earth elements in shaping the landscape of our interconnected and rapidly evolving world.


As we journey through the annals of scientific discovery, certain elements stand out for their unique properties and diverse applications. Cerium (Ce), with its atomic number 58, is one such rare earth element that has silently woven its way into the fabric of history. From its discovery in the early 19th century to its pivotal role in modern technological advancements, the story of Cerium is a fascinating chronicle of exploration, innovation, and adaptation.


Discovery and Naming

The tale of Cerium begins in 1803 when Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and his colleague Wilhelm Hisinger discovered a new element within a rare earth mineral they named cerite. The element, initially thought to be a single entity, was later revealed to be a mixture of oxides of several elements, including the one we now know as Cerium. In 1804, Berzelius, along with Finnish chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, isolated the element in its pure form, marking the official discovery of Cerium.

The name "Cerium" was derived from the asteroid Ceres, discovered a few years earlier in 1801. This celestial connection was a nod to the burgeoning interest in astronomy during the early 19th century and added a touch of celestial mystique to the newly discovered element.


Cerium in the 19th Century

In the decades following its discovery, Cerium remained a subject of scientific fascination. Researchers delved into its properties, seeking to understand its behavior and potential applications. Cerium oxide, known as ceria, became a focal point of study. Its unique ability to switch between different oxidation states captured the attention of chemists, setting the stage for future applications.


Cerium in Glass and Photography

As the 19th century progressed, Cerium found its way into the field of optics. Cerium oxide, with its high refractive index and light-scattering properties, became a key ingredient in the production of optical glass. This marked the beginning of Cerium's influence on lens manufacturing, paving the way for advancements in cameras, telescopes, and other optical devices. The use of Cerium in glass polishing compounds further solidified its role in precision optics.

The advent of photography provided a new avenue for Cerium's application. Cerium compounds were utilized in the production of photographic plates, contributing to the development of early photographic technology. This intersection of chemistry and photography showcased Cerium's adaptability and laid the groundwork for its future in imaging technology.


Cerium in the 20th Century

The 20th century witnessed a surge in the applications of Cerium across various industries. Its catalytic properties became particularly significant, leading to its incorporation into catalytic converters in automobiles. Cerium oxide, as a catalyst, played a crucial role in reducing harmful emissions, addressing environmental concerns, and contributing to the automotive industry's pursuit of cleaner technologies.

Cerium's role in metallurgy also expanded during this period. The addition of Cerium to certain alloys, such as nodular cast iron, resulted in improved mechanical properties, making it a valuable component in the production of durable and high-performance materials.


21st Century and Beyond

As we step into the 21st century, Cerium continues to play a pivotal role in technological advancements. Its applications in electronics, renewable energy, and healthcare underscore its enduring relevance in a rapidly evolving world. Cerium's presence in phosphors for LED displays, fuel cell technology, and medical treatments highlights its versatility and adaptability to meet the demands of contemporary challenges.



The history of Cerium is a testament to the symbiotic relationship between scientific curiosity and practical applications. From its discovery in the early 19th century to its multifaceted role in modern industry, Cerium has evolved alongside human progress. As we continue to unlock the secrets of the periodic table, Cerium stands as a shining example of how a rare earth element can transcend its origins, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of scientific history and shaping the technological landscape of the present and future.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 2.42
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 62.72
Covalent Radiues (A): 1.84
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 1.12
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
534.403 1046.87 1948.811 3546.608 6324.61 7487.3 - -

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 1
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
136Ce 135.907 0.185 > 0.7 x 1014 y EC EC
> 4.2 x 1015 y β- β-
136Ce 137.906 0.251 >3.7 x 1014 y EC EC
136Ce 139.905 88.45 -
136Ce 141.909 11.114 > 1.6 x 1017 y β-β-

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: 9.5
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 0.3
Recycle Rate (%): <10
Production Conc.(%) : 97
Top 3 Producers:
1) China
2) Russia
3) Malaysia
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
1) China
2) CIS Countries (inc. Russia)
3) USA
Substitutability: High
Political Stability of Top Producer: 24.1
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: 24.1

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: 192
Shear Modulus: 13.5
Young Modulus: 33.6
Bulk Modulus: 21.5
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
- - - 2.47 x 10-11 8.91 x 10-8 2.97 x 10-5 0.00233 0.0691 1.04 9.56 21.5



Welcome to another episode of "Talking About Elements." Today, we're delving into the fascinating world of cerium – an element that has left an indelible mark on history, boasts unique properties, and plays a vital role in various applications. Let's start our journey with a glimpse into the rich history of cerium.

Cerium, with the symbol C e and atomic number 58, was discovered in 1803 by Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Wilhelm Hisinger. Its name derives from the dwarf planet Ceres, discovered just two years earlier, and it's often associated with the celestial realm. Cerium's early discovery is a testament to its distinctiveness.

During the 19th century, cerium was challenging to isolate due to its close association with other rare earth elements. However, chemists persevered, and by the early 20th century, they had successfully separated cerium from its counterparts, revealing its unique properties.

Cerium belongs to the lanthanide series, a group of elements renowned for their similar properties. However, cerium stands out due to its dual oxidation states, +3 and +4. This dual nature makes cerium an essential component in various applications.

One of cerium's standout properties is its ability to ignite spontaneously when exposed to air. This phenomenon, known as "pyrophoricity," is particularly useful in applications like cigarette lighter flints and the production of self-starting alloys for lighter manufacturing.

Additionally, cerium possesses remarkable catalytic properties. Cerium oxide, or ceria, is widely used in catalytic converters in automobiles. It helps reduce harmful emissions by promoting the oxidation of pollutants in exhaust gases.

Cerium is relatively abundant in the Earth's crust, with an estimated abundance of around 66 parts per million. It is primarily found in minerals like monazite, bastnäsite, and xenotime, often associated with other rare earth elements.

The production of cerium involves several steps, including mining, separation, and purification. Monazite, a phosphate mineral, is a common source of cerium. Once extracted, it undergoes a series of chemical processes to separate and refine cerium, typically involving solvent extraction and precipitation methods.

Cerium's versatility makes it indispensable in various applications across different industries. Let's explore some of its myriad uses:

As mentioned earlier, cerium oxide is a key component in catalytic converters, helping to reduce harmful emissions in automobiles. It converts carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) into less harmful substances, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2).

Cerium oxide is also used in glass polishing and ceramics manufacturing. It provides a high-quality finish and can remove scratches and imperfections from glass surfaces, making it vital in the production of eyeglasses, camera lenses, and telescope mirrors.

Cerium is used in the production of incandescent lamps, where cerium-doped filaments increase the efficiency of these bulbs. Although less common today due to the prevalence of LED lighting, cerium's contributions to lighting technology are noteworthy.

Cerium-based materials have garnered attention in the development of solid oxide fuel cells. These cells hold promise as an environmentally friendly energy source, and cerium-based electrolytes play a crucial role in their development.

Cerium is alloyed with other metals to enhance their properties. For instance, cerium-aluminum alloys improve the mechanical properties of aluminum, making it more suitable for aerospace applications.

Cerium-144, a radioactive isotope of cerium, is used in nuclear reactors and as a neutron-absorbing material in control rods.

Cerium compounds have been explored for their potential medicinal applications, particularly in the treatment of certain cancers.

Cerium oxide nanoparticles have shown promise in removing heavy metals and other contaminants from water, contributing to improved water quality.

Cerium is a key ingredient in fireworks and flares, contributing to their bright and colorful displays.

As we wrap up our exploration of cerium, it's clear that this unassuming element has had a profound impact on various aspects of our lives. From reducing vehicle emissions to improving glass and ceramics, cerium plays a crucial role in countless applications.

So, the next time you drive your car, wear your glasses, or enjoy a fireworks display, take a moment to appreciate the unique and versatile element – cerium – that quietly enhances your experience. Thank you for joining us on this elemental journey, and we look forward to sharing more fascinating discoveries with you in future episodes.


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