Named after Europe. In 1890 Boisbaudran obtained basic fractions from samarium-gadolinium concentrates which had spark spectral lines not accounted for by samarium or gadolinium. These lines subsequently have been shown to belong to europium. The discovery of europium is generally credited to Demarcay, who separated the rare earth in reasonably pure form in 1901. The pure metal was not isolated until recent years.
Europium has been identified spectroscopically in the sun and certain stars. Seventeen isotopes are now recognized. Europium isotopes are good neutron absorbers and are being studied for use in nuclear control applications.
Europium-doped plastic has been used as a laser material. With the development of ion-exchange techniques and special processes, the cost of the metal has been greatly reduced in recent years.