(Enrico Fermi) Fermium, the eighth discovered transuranium element of the actinide series, was identified by Ghiorso and co-workers in 1952 in the debris from a thermonuclear explosion in the pacific during work involving the University of California Radiation Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The isotope produced was the 20-hour 255Fm. During 1953 and early 1954, while discovery of elements 99 and 100 was withheld from publication for security reasons, a group from the Nobel Institute of Physics in Stockholm bombarded 238U with 16O ions, and isolated a 30-min alpha-emitter, which they ascribed to 250Fm, without claiming discovery of the element. This isotope has since been identified positively, and the 30-min half-life confirmed.
The chemical properties of fermium have been studied solely with tracer amounts. In normal aqueous media, only the (III) oxidation state appears to exist.
254Fm and heavier isotopes can be produced by intense neutron irradiation of lower elements, such as plutonium, using a process of successive neutron capture interspersed with beta decays until these mass numbers and atomic numbers are reached.
Sixteen isotopes of fermium are known to exist. 257Fm, with a half-life of about 100.5 days, is the longest lived. 250Fm, with a half-life of 30 minutes, has been shown to be a decay product of element 254No. Chemical identification of 250Fm confirmed the production of element 102 (nobelium).