Periodic Table -> Yttrium


Yttrium Details

Yttrium Symbol: Y

Yttrium Atomic Number: 39

Yttrium Atomic Weight: 88.905

What is Yttrium?

Yttrium (symbol Y, atomic number 39) is a chemical element classified as a rare earth element, which is never found naturally as a free element.

Properties, Isotopes, and Occurrence
The element atomic weight of 88.9. Its melting and boiling points are known to be 1522 C, and 3345 C respectively. Yttrium's density is pinpointed at 4.47 grams per cubic centimetre. Classified as metal, it is in a solid state at room temperature. Yttrium (not to be confused with ytterbium) is also named after the Swedish village of Ytterby where it was first discovered.

In physical appearance, Yttrium appears as a silvery-metallic, lustrous, soft, and highly crystalline transition metal from Group 3 of the Periodic Table. Generally, Yttrium in its pure form is relatively stable when exposed to air. This is so because the element creates a protective oxidation coating when in contact with air. The element has only one stable isotope – Y-89 which is also its only naturally occurring isotope. Yttrium is found in certain types of uranium ore. Geologically, this is the earth’s twenty eight most abundant element. It is interesting to note that rock samples brought from the moon by the Apollo mission contain a relatively high amount of Yttrium.

The story of Yttrium begins in the Swedish village of Ytterby, at the local quarry to be precise. In the late 1700s, retired army officer and enthusiast chemist Carl Arrhenius stumbled across a heavy black rock at the local quarry. He thought the piece of rock contained the newly discovered tungsten element and sent the rock for analysis to a number of chemists around the country. The rock sample reached a Finnish chemist by the name of Johan Gadolin from the University of Abo. He carefully ran tests on the rock and found out that it was in fact not tungsten, but a new oxide or ‘earth’ as it was referred to in those days. The Finnish chemist’s complete analysis on the element was officially published in 1794. Although Yttrium as an element was identified in the years to come, it was not isolated as an element until 1828, by Friedrich Wohler.

Chemical Compounds and Applications
Yttrium as an element is not too widely used in modern times, however, some of its chemical compounds are. For example, Yttrium oxide and Yttrium orthovanadate are combined with a chemical element known as europium in order to produce red phosphor which is used to create the color red in (CRT & LED) televisions. Garnets produced from Yttrium and iron are widely used in microwave communications in order to shield equipment from actual microwaves. Garnets made using Yttrium and aluminium usually imitate diamonds in jewellery pieces. The element also sees use in manufacturing of superconductors, electronic filters, electrodes, and electrolytes, it also has certain medical applications. There are no known biological uses for Yttrium, but prolonged exposure to the element can cause lung disease in humans, even though certain organs and tissues do contain small amounts of Yttrium.

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