SCANDIUM





Scandium 3378
Photo by: www.fzd.it

Scandium

Overview

The existence of scandium was predicted nearly ten years before it was actually discovered. The prediction was made by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907). Mendeleev developed the periodic table based on his periodic law. The periodic table is a chart that shows how chemical elements are related to one another. The table originally had a number of empty boxes for elements that had not been discovered. Chemists were able to search for these elements based on the properties of the elements around the empty boxes. Scandium was found in 1879 by Swedish chemist Lars Nilson (1840-99). It is a transition metal, appearing in Group 3 (IIIB).

Scandium is a moderately abundant element. However, it tends to be spread out throughout the earth rather than concentrated in a few places. This makes it difficult to isolate. In fact, scandium is classified as a rare earth element. Rare earth elements are not really "rare." However, they are difficult to extract from the earth. They are also difficult to separate from each other.

SYMBOL
Sc

ATOMIC NUMBER
21

ATOMIC MASS
44.9559

FAMILY
Group 3 (IIIB)
Transition metal

PRONUNCIATION
SCAN-dee-um

Scandium has few commercial uses. It is sometimes combined with other metals to make alloys. An alloy is made by melting and mixing two or more metals. The mixture has properties different from those of the individual metals. Scandium alloys are being used more in various kinds of sporting equipment and in other applications.

Discovery and naming

In 1869, Mendeleev made one of the great discoveries in the history of chemistry, the periodic law. The periodic law shows how the chemical elements are related to each other. The most common way of representing the periodic law is in a chart called the periodic table.

Mendeleev's original periodic table contained only about 60 elements. That was the total number of elements known in 1869. When he drew his first periodic table, Mendeleev found some empty places. What did those empty places mean?

Mendeleev made a prediction that the empty places in the periodic table stood for elements that had not yet been discovered. He said one could tell what those elements are going to be like by examining their position in the periodic table. For example, element number 21 would be like boron , Mendeleev predicted. Boron was the element above number 21 in Mendeleev's chart. He called the missing element (number 21) ekaboron, or "similar to boron."

Chemists were fascinated by Mendeleev's prediction. Could he really tell them how to look for a new element? And could he tell them what that element would be like?

One of the chemists who took up the challenge was Nilson. Nilson analyzed two minerals known as gadolinite and euxenite, in search of the missing element. By 1879, he announced the discovery of "ekaboron." He suggested the name scandium, in honor of Scandinavia, the region in which Nilson' homeland of Sweden is located. (See accompanying sidebar on Nilson.)

Nilson's discovery was very important in chemistry. It showed that Mendeleev's periodic law was correct. The law did show how elements are related to each other. It could be used to describe elements that had not even been discovered!

The substance discovered by Nilson was not pure scandium metal, but a compound of scandium and oxygen —scandium oxide (Sc 2 O 3 ). It is quite difficult to produce pure scandium metal from scandium oxide. In fact, it was not until 1937 that the metal was isolated. Then, it was another twenty years before a large sample (weighing one pound) was produced. Today, companies that use scandium often buy the oxide rather than the pure metal. The oxide costs several thousand dollars per kilogram. By comparison, the pure metal costs a few hundred thousand dollars per kilogram.

Physical properties

Scandium metal is a silvery-white solid with a slight pink or yellow tint when exposed to air. It has a melting point of 1,538°C (2,800°F) and a boiling point of about 2,700°C (4,900°F). Its density is 2.99 grams per cubic centimeter.

Lars Nilson | Swedish chemist

L ars Nilson was born in the Swedish town of Östergötland on May 27, 1840. He entered the University of Upsala at the age of 19, intending to study biology, chemistry, and geology. He found university work difficult because he was in very poor health. He often suffered from bleeding in the lungs.

Yet, he persevered and was ready to receive his doctoral degree in 1865. Then he received word that his father was seriously ill. Instead of finishing his university work, he returned home. He took charge of the farm and helped his sick father for many months. At the end of that time, he made a surprising discovery. His illness had disappeared. He was healthy enough to return to Upsala and earn his degree.

In 1879, Nilson made the discovery for which he is most famous. He was studying a mineral known as erbia. The mineral was a complex mixture of many elements. Many chemists throughout Europe were trying to find out exactly what elements were present in erbia.

Nilson found a new element in erbia that no one had yet seen. He was surprised to discover that the element had already been predicted. Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev had discovered the periodic law only ten years earlier. Mendeleev had used the periodic law to predict the existence of three elements that had not yet been discovered. One of these elements exactly matched the element found by Nilson. Nilson named the element scandium in honor of his native region, Scandinavia.

Chemical properties

Scandium is similar to the rare earth elements chemically. It reacts readily with acids, but does not react easily with oxygen in the air.

Occurrence in nature

The abundance of scandium is thought to be about 5 to 6 parts per million in the Earth's crust. Interestingly, the element seems to be much more abundant in the sun and some stars than it is on Earth.

Scandium is thought to occur in more than 800 different minerals. Its most important ores are the minerals thortveitite and wolframite. It is also found in minerals containing other rare earth elements, such as monazite, bastnasite, and gadolinite.

In the United States, scandium is obtained from the waste products of other mining operations. Some scandium comes from the mining of fluorite at Crystal Mountain, Montana, and some from the mining of tantalum in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The actual amount of scandium produced in the United States is not announced. It is regarded as a trade secret in the industry.

Isotopes

Only one naturally occurring isotope of scandium is known, scandium-45. Isotopes are two or more forms of an element. Isotopes differ from each other according to their mass number. The number written to the right of the element's name is the mass number. The mass number represents the number of protons plus neutrons in the nucleus of an atom of the element. The number of protons determines the element, but the number of neutrons in the atom of any one element can vary. Each variation is an isotope.

About 10 radioactive isotopes of scandium are known also. A radioactive isotope is one that breaks apart and gives off some form of radiation. Radioactive isotopes are produced when very small particles are fired at atoms. These particles stick in the atoms and make them radioactive.

There are no commercial uses for any radioactive isotope of scandium.

Scandium is thought to occur in more than 800 different minerals.

Extraction

Pure scandium metal can be made by reacting scandium fluoride (ScF 3 ) with another active metal, such as calcium or zinc:

Scandium alloys are used in bicycle frames.
Scandium alloys are used in bicycle frames.

Uses

There are relatively few commercial uses for scandium or its compounds. It is sometimes used to make alloys for special purposes. Scandium metal is lighter than most other metals. It is also resistant to corrosion (rusting) and has a high melting point. These properties make scandium alloys especially desirable for use in sporting equipment, such as baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, and bicycle frames. These alloys may also have some applications in the aerospace industry. These applications are not yet well developed, however, because of the high cost of the metal.

Scandium alloys are also used in specialized lamps. The presence of scandium produces light that is very similar to that of natural sunlight.

Compounds

None of the compounds of scandium has any important commercial use.

Health effects

As with the rare earth elements, little is known about the health effects of scandium. In such cases, the best policy is to handle the metal very carefully.



User Contributions:

Laura
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 1, 2009 @ 9:09 am
Maybe you could provide references for this work? But all in all very interesting! Thanks for putting it together
Alisa
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 3, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
great job this had all of the information I was looking for!
katy
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 5, 2009 @ 7:07 am
This is realy good website thank you i got all my work done
Nicole
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 4, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
This was kind of helpful but I think something might be missing. Other than that, thanks for the info. !!
georgia
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 8, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
this was kinda helpful but you know when it reacts with oxygen, is it an acid formed base or not?
thanks for the other facts!!
jayone
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 8, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
this was good help for me i got a A+ on my project
lane
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 8, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
It had a lot of good info but i still need the thin section, rock formation, mining technique, isolation of scandium from ore, top 5 largest mines of scandium in the world, and ores and minerals associated with ores. Where could i find that?
alyssa
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 16, 2010 @ 11:11 am
hi i like this website it give me all the answers i needed for my science project and my element is scandium lol(:
jamie
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 27, 2010 @ 2:14 pm
people are so picky, just say thanks and move on

btw thanks, very helpful
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 25, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
great info really helped in my project thanks a lot
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 20, 2010 @ 9:09 am
scandium is a good element its boiling point is 2839 degreesncelcius
Taylor
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 20, 2010 @ 4:16 pm
Im doing a project and was wanting to know the answer to the following question! What kind of products has scandium have in them??
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 28, 2010 @ 11:11 am
i cant find the properties of scandium.this is awesome though but it need to have more info!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 5, 2010 @ 7:07 am
Better to give details of the extraction in terms of chemical equations.Others are perfect
Me
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 17, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
This is my element for my projiect(:
thank you website
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 17, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Omg! i got a A+ on my project
thank you , you websiter(: i love this website, keep it up
for those who need it (:
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 24, 2010 @ 1:01 am
THIS WAS REALLY GOOD BECAUSE I HAD A SCIENCE HOMEWORK THANK U SOOO MUCH!
booz
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am
really helpful thank you it really works A++ on my project
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 12, 2011 @ 9:09 am
this cite was very helpfull i just need more info about who and when it was mad for a apa forma work-cited page
ruth
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 6, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
thank you I gotan A+ from the info frome this websiet
Dora
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 30, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
Could you tell us how it's made, or like what it's made out of. 'm doing a science project and ths is my element! I need mor information! :)
sakeena
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 30, 2012 @ 11:23 pm
This website gave me alot of information on my science project..My element is obviously scandium.This gave me alot of information on the discovery and reasoning of naming for my element.
bob
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 5, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
this has helped with my report a lot thanks i will hopefully get an A
ME
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 11, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
Really helpful but it needs ALOT MORE INFO. Thanks anyways :)
Ashya
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 23, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
Thanks so much! This website was extremely helpful. I was able to easily obtain the information I needed for my Element Project.
Alicia
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 1, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
Really, really helpful! Especially for my element project. (:
Ravinder jain
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 9, 2012 @ 10:10 am
How we can onvert aluminium to scandium ratio of other metals used to make scandium please let me know
littlesnooks
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 23, 2013 @ 11:11 am
so i'm doing a project and this website really helped me with all my questions except i couldn't find how scandium received its name?
Hardt
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 11, 2014 @ 5:17 pm
Thanks so much for the scandium page-and don't worry u got credit on my keynote slideshow

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA


Scandium, Chemical Element forum