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Starship Technical Manual - The Lanthanum Grid

Lanthanum (La), chemical element, rare-earth metal of transition Group IIIb of the periodic table, prototype of the lanthanide series of elements. Lanthanum is a ductile and malleable, silvery-white metal, soft enough to be cut with a knife.

It is not know exactly when Lanthanum was discovered on Vland, though it is known to have been used as a getter to remove traces of oxygen in electron tubes and in the fabrication of low-dispersion, high-refraction glasses for lens components by about -10,500 Imperial (~5100 P.I.). On Terra the element was discovered as the oxide (lanthana) in -2682 Imperial (1839 A.D.) by Carl Gustaf Mosander, who distinguished it from cerium oxide (ceria). Its name is derived from the Terran Greek lanthanein, meaning "to be concealed," indicating that it is difficult to isolate. Lanthanum occurs in the rare-earth minerals monazite and bastnaesite.

Lanthanum exhibits three allotropic (structural) forms. Two isotopes occur in nature: stable lanthanum-139 (99.911 percent) and very long-lived radioactive lanthanum-138 (0.089 percent). The isotope lanthanum-140 has been detected as a fission product in snow after nuclear explosions. Lanthanum is the second most reactive of the rare-earth metals (europium is first); it rapidly tarnishes in dry air, ignites in air at 440 C (824 F), and reacts vigorously with hot water. It is exclusively trivalent in its compounds. The ionic radius is the largest of the rare-earth trivalent ions, and as a consequence the white oxide La2O3 is the most alkaline rare-earth oxide.

Jump Grid diagram from specifications of Ling-Standard Products Beowulf-class free trader

Highly purified lanthanum is a primary ingredient in the manufacture of jump grids for interstellar spacecraft. The lanthanum hull grid is built into the ship's hull. It is fairly coarse, spaced about 1 m between grid lines. Lanthanum is also used in the inner coils of the jump engine in the bridging circuit between the Power Transfer Circuit and the Jump Capacitor.

Early jump ship designs had no jump grid. Much of the energy of the jump engine was wasted creating a spherical jump bubble to encompass the vessel. Modern ships can still route power to the grid such that a larger jump bubble can be created, at the expense of engine efficiency. This can be used to "tow" another vessel, which is physically locked to the jumpship, through a jump.

Ships which may be subject to battle damage carry emergency cables which have lanthanum cores. These cable can be rigged to bridge grid lines which have been severed due to battle damage.

La

atomic number 57
atomic weight 138.91
melting point 920 C (1,688 F)
boiling point 3,454 C (6,249 F)
specific gravity 6.166 (25 C)
valence 3
electronic config. 2-8-18-18-9-2 or (Xe)5d16s2