Yttrium: the essentials

Yttrium has a silvery-metallic lustre. Yttrium turnings ignite in air. Yttrium is found in most rare-earth minerals. Moon rocks contain yttrium and yttrium is used as a "phosphor" to produce the red colour in television screens.

Table: basic information about and classifications of yttrium.

Yttrium: historical information

Yttrium was discovered by Johann Gadolin at 1794 in Finland. Origin of name: named after the village of "Ytterby" near Vaxholm in Sweden.

Yttria (yttrium oxide, Y2O3), was discovered by Johann Gadolin in 1794 in a mineral called gadolinite from Ytterby. Ytterby is the site of a quarry in Sweden which contains many unusual minerals containing erbium, terbium, and ytterbium as well as yttrium. Friedrich Wohler obtained the impure element in 1828 by reduction of the anhydrous chloride (YCl3) with potassium.

Yttrium: physical properties

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Yttrium: orbital properties

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Isolation: yttrium metal is available commercially so it is not normally necesary to make it in the laboratory. Yttrium is found in lathanoid minerals and the extraction of the yttrium and the lanthanoid metals from the ores is highly complex. Initially, the metals are extractedas salts from the ores by extraction with sulphuric acid (H2SO4), hydrochloric acid (HCl), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Modern purification techniques for these lanthanoid salt mixtures involve selective complexation techniques, solvent extractions, and ion exchange chromatography.

Pure yttrium is available through the reduction of YF3 with calcium metal.

2YF3 + 3Ca → 2Y + 3CaF2

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yttrium atomic number