In the modern world, artifice is accepted as a part of daily reality, but the periodic table isn’t often thought of as containing manufactured elements. That’s exactly what technetium is though: the first artificially produced element.
Man Made and Metallic
A radioactive, silver transition metal, technetium was first produced in 1937 by an Italian scientist, after prior predictions stated some such element must exist due to a gap in the periodic table.
After its first production, scientists spent decades searching for an organic form of technetium. In 1962, almost negligible amounts of the element were found in uranium ore in Africa, an apparent byproduct of spontaneous fission. Given its radioactive nature, this should come as no surprise.
All technetium isotopes are radioactive, meaning there’s absolutely no biological function for the element, and the commercial uses are limited to small amounts as a measure of safety.
Medical Imagery, Metal Longevity
Despite its radioactivity, technetium has found ways to make itself useful. One of the most important is as a medical imaging aid, where a patient will ingest some form of technetium, and its radioactivity will allow technicians to more easily trace the body’s functions, like blood flow. The half life of this element is long enough to allow for such procedures, but short enough not to cause damage in the proper dosage.
Technetium also improves the life of steel when added as an alloy due to the fact that it resists corrosion. A very small amount of this element added to the mixture serves its purpose without creating any dangerous byproducts of radioactivity.
This man-made element was essentially produced by working backward from a hunch, and though it doesn’t have boundless uses, technetium’s applications are certainly important.