Periodic Table -> Scandium


Scandium Details

Scandium Symbol: Sc

Scandium Atomic Number: 21

Scandium Atomic Weight: 44.956

What is Scandium?

Scandium (atomic number 21, symbol Sc) is a rare transition metal with a silvery white color. Other rare elements are lutetium, ytterbium, thulium, erbium, and holmium. It is considered a rare element because it occurs in the same ores as other rare earth elements and has the same properties. The metal was discovered by the Swedish chemist Lars Fredrik Nilson in 1879. He was the first to detect it in gadolinite and euxenite. Scandium oxide was discovered by Per Theodor Cleve. The name of the element comes from the Latin word scandia. The metal was isolated from a mixture of scandium, lithium, and potassium chloride using electrolysis. The scientists used molten zinc in a graphite cubicle to isolate it. It was in 1971 when alloys were produced for the first time. They were developed in the former Soviet Union and the United States.

This is a soft metal that becomes pink or yellow in contact with air. It reacts with dilute acids and water and is solid at room temperature. The element has a boiling point of 2836 C (5136.8 F) and a melting point of 1541 C (2805.8 F). There are 13 radioisotopes, and Sc-46 has the longest half life (about 84 days). The isotopes are 7. Several of its compounds have been studied. There are organic derivatives, pseudohalides, halides, hydroxides, and oxides. The metal is paramagnetic with hexagonal crystal structure. There are several oxidation states but +3 is the most common one.

Occurrence and Production
Scandium occurs in different minerals, including gadolinite, euxenite, thortveitite, and others. The main source is thortveitite which is found in granitic pegmatites. Gadolinite is obtained from monazite which is a type of phosphate mineral. Deposits are found in different countries, including South Africa, Madagascar, and India. Minerals such as euxenite and gadolinite are found in Madagascar and Scandinavia. The metal is obtained in the form of scandia or scandium(III) oxide. There are three mining sites in Russia, China, and Ukraine where scandium is a byproduct of iron and uranium mining. In addition to uranium refining, the element can be extracted from minerals such as wiikite and bazzite.

Commercial and Potential Uses
Scandium is used to manufacture glasses, energy-saving bulbs and lamps, fluorescent lamps, and TV sets. The metal is also used to manufacture lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, bikes, and alloys. Components for sports equipment such as fishing rods, bicycle frames, and golf iron shafts are produced. Scandium is mainly used in the aerospace industry. Metal halide lamps are manufactured using sodium and scandium iodide. The latter is used to manufacture mercury vapor lamps. One of the isotopes, Sc-46 has application in the oil industry and is used in oil refineries. Scandium triflate is a compound that is used in chemical reactions. Some alloys, for example, scandium-aluminum alloys can be used to produce fuel cells.

Health Effects and the Environment
Insignificant amounts of scandium are found in species. It has no biological role. However, it is released in the environment at different sites and accumulates, contributing to environmental pollution. Research shows that the metal damages the cell membranes of aquatic species leading to reproductive failure and other problems. Some compounds may have carcinogenic properties but the element itself is not toxic. Long exposure in work settings may be harmful and can cause liver damage and respiratory diseases such as lung embolism. Exposure occurs through inhalation. Scandium(III) chloride has been found to be toxic in high concentrations. Research shows that it can be lethal when ingested or inhaled by lab rats. Other compounds are moderately toxic.

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