Home » Introducing Yttrium: History, Discovery, And Properties

Introducing Yttrium: History, Discovery, And Properties

by chemdude71

Yttrium is a chemical element that is classified as a transition metal in the periodic table. It is one of the rare earth elements, and its atomic number is 39. Yttrium was discovered in 1787 by Swedish chemist Carl Axel Arrhenius, while examining the minerals known as ytterbite or gadolinite.

The element was named after the village of Ytterby in Sweden, where it was first extracted from the minerals.


Yttrium has some very unique properties that make it a highly sought-after material in many industries. Its physical properties, such as its atomic number and weight, melting and boiling points, and density, are all important characteristics.

It is also known for its chemical properties, such as its reactivity, oxidation states, and compounds. Yttrium plays an important role in the production of electronics, metals, and alloys, and in the manufacture of glass.

Yttrium has some interesting facts associated with it that make it an interesting element to learn about. Its name originates from the Swedish village of Ytterby, where it was first discovered. It is naturally occurring in some minerals, and its special properties have made it an important material in many industries.

Safety concerns regarding Yttrium include its potential environmental impacts, toxicity, and handling precautions. It is important to be aware of these safety concerns and to take the necessary precautions when handling Yttrium.

This article will provide an overview of Yttrium and will explore its history, discovery, properties, uses, and interesting facts. It will also discuss safety concerns and will provide information on how to properly handle Yttrium.

Physical Properties

Yttrium is an element in the periodic table with an atomic number of 39 and an atomic mass of 88.9. It is a silvery-white, rare Earth metal with a bright, lustrous appearance and low density. As a member of the lanthanide group, Yttrium is a transition metal, and is considered to be a moderately hard metal.

It has a melting point of 1522°C and a boiling point of 3345°C, with a density of 4.472 g/cm3. Yttrium is relatively unreactive, but can form compounds with oxygen or halogens to form yttrium oxide or halides. These compounds are typically yellow or white in color, and are highly insoluble in water.

At room temperature, Yttrium is a brittle and ductile metal. It has a low electrical conductivity and a higher thermal conductivity than most other metals, making it ideal for use in high-temperature applications. It also has a low Mohs hardness, meaning it is susceptible to wear and tear.

Yttrium’s chemical properties are more complex than its physical properties. At high temperatures, its reactivity increases and it can form compounds with other metals and non-metals. It is able to form four oxidation states, from +3 to +7, making it a good redox catalyst. It is also able to form compounds with sulfur and phosphorus, and can form organometallic compounds with ligands such as acetylacetonate.

Yttrium has several unique properties that make it useful in a wide variety of applications. It is relatively non-toxic, odourless, and non-flammable, and it can form very strong alloys with other metals. It also has excellent magnetic properties, making it an ideal material for use in electronics and electrical equipment.

Finally, Yttrium is also able to absorb and retain neutrons, making it invaluable for use in nuclear reactors and in certain medical procedures. This property makes it an important component in the development of nuclear energy and nuclear medicine.


Chemical Properties

Yttrium is a transition metal, belonging to group 3 of the periodic table and its atomic number is 39. This makes it one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust. Yttrium is also unique in that it has a very diverse range of chemical properties, which makes it useful in many applications.


Yttrium is known to be relatively reactive, though not as reactive as other transition metals. Yttrium reacts with oxygen and nitrogen in the air to form a layer of oxide and nitride on the surface of the metal. This layer is stable and inert, protecting the metal beneath it. Yttrium also reacts with halogens to form yttrium halides, such as yttrium fluoride and yttrium chloride.

Oxidation States:

Yttrium is known to form several oxidation states, ranging from +1 to +7. Of these, +3 is the most common, owing to the element’s position in group 3 of the periodic table. The +3 oxidation state is also the most stable and is the one most often seen in nature.


Yttrium is known to form a wide variety of compounds, the most common of which are yttrium oxides and yttrium-containing salts. Yttrium oxides, such as yttrium oxide (Y2O3) and yttrium hydroxide (Y(OH)3), are widely used in many different industrial processes. They are also used as pigments and glazes in ceramic and glassmaking. Yttrium-containing salts, such as yttrium bromide (YBr3) and yttrium iodide (YI3), are used as catalysts in certain chemical reactions.

Yttrium is also known to form various yttrium-based alloys, such as yttrium-aluminum garnet (Y3Al5O12) and yttrium-iron garnet (Y3Fe5O12). These alloys are often used in the electronics industry, as they have excellent electrical properties. Yttrium is also used to strengthen steel, making it tougher and more resistant to corrosion.

In conclusion, the chemical properties of yttrium make it a very useful element. Yttrium can form a wide variety of compounds, alloys, and salts, which can be used in many different industrial processes. Its oxides and halides are also used in many applications, such as pigments, catalysts, and glazes. Yttrium is also used to strengthen steel, making it tougher and more resistant to corrosion.


Uses of Yttrium

Yttrium has many uses in various industries, from electronics to metals and alloys. It is a key component in a range of products from medical equipment to high-tech gadgets.

In electronics, yttrium is used in a variety of ways. It forms a component of the luminescent layer of liquid crystal displays, as well as being used to make magnets and other materials for semiconductor fabrication. For magnets, yttrium has the advantage of offering high coercivity, which is important for high-frequency applications. Yttrium is also used in a range of other electronic applications from microwave communication systems to imaging systems.

Yttrium is also used in the production of metals and alloys. Yttrium-based alloys are popular for their strength and light weight. These alloys are used in aircraft engines, automotive components, and fuel cells. Yttrium is also an important element for the production of superconductors, which have applications in the power grid and computer components.

Glassmaking is another major application for yttrium. Yttrium oxide can be used to produce a range of glass products, from optical lenses to fiber optics. It is also used in the production of special types of glass such as laser glasses, which are used in laser scanners and other imaging equipment. Yttrium-based glass is also used in medical equipment such as X-ray tubes and specialized lenses.

Yttrium has even been used in the production of fireworks and pyrotechnics. It can be used to create brilliant and colorful displays, and is often used in military applications for flares and other special effects.

Yttrium is a versatile and important element for many industries. Its various uses are constantly being explored and developed, and it is likely to remain an important element for years to come.

Interesting Facts

Yttrium is an element that has captured the interest of scientists and researchers for centuries due to its unique properties. As one of the transition elements, it is associated with a range of other elements in the periodic table, and this makes it a fascinating subject to study. Here are some interesting facts about yttrium:

Name Origin: Yttrium is named after the Swedish village of Ytterby, where it was first discovered. The element was discovered in 1787 by Carl Axel Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist and mineralogist.

Natural Occurrence: It is a naturally occurring element found in many minerals and ores, including monazite and bastnäsite. It is also found in trace amounts in some meteorites and lunar rocks.

Special Characteristics: Yttrium is a soft, silver-metallic element with a shiny surface. It has a relatively low melting point of 1522°C and a boiling point of 3345°C. It is also very malleable and ductile, and can be easily worked into different shapes for use in a range of applications.

Atomic Number and Weight: Yttrium has an atomic number of 39 and an atomic weight of 88.905. It is classified as a transition element and is part of the group of elements known as the rare-earth elements.

Melting and Boiling Points: Yttrium has a melting point of 1522°C and a boiling point of 3345°C. It is a relatively stable element, with a boiling point of one of the highest of all the rare-earth elements.

Density: Yttrium has a density of 4.47 g/cm3, which is higher than other rare-earth elements such as lanthanum and cerium.

Reactivity: Yttrium is a relatively nonreactive element. It is not reactive with air, water, or most acids and alkalis. It does, however, react with strong oxidizing agents and halogens.

Oxidation States: Yttrium has several oxidation states, from -1 to +4. It is most commonly found in the +3 state.

Compounds: Yttrium forms several compounds with other elements, including yttrium oxide, yttrium chloride, and yttrium nitrate. Yttrium-90 is a radioactive isotope commonly used in medical imaging and cancer treatments.

Uses of Yttrium: Yttrium is used in a variety of applications, from electronics to glassmaking. It is used as an alloying agent in stainless steel and other metals, and is also added to glass to give it additional strength and durability. It is also used in the manufacture of phosphors, which are used in fluorescent lighting, and other applications.

Applications in Electronics: Yttrium is used in many electronic applications, from semiconductors to fuel cells, and is an essential component of many modern electronics. It is often used in the manufacture of computer memory chips, and is also used in optical fibers.

Metals and Alloys: Yttrium is often added to other metals and alloys to enhance their properties. It is commonly used as an alloying agent in stainless steel, aluminium, and other alloys, and is also used in the manufacture of superalloys.

Glassmaking: Yttrium is used in the manufacture of speciality glasses, such as those used in optical fibers. It is also used in the manufacture of heat-resistant glassware, as well as glass with a high refractive index.

Safety Concerns: Yttrium is a toxic element, and handling it requires special precautions. It should be handled with gloves and protective eyewear, and its dust should not be inhaled.

Environmental Impact: Yttrium does not occur naturally in large concentrations in the environment, but is released into the environment through industrial activities. It can be toxic to aquatic life, and should be handled with care.

Toxicity: Yttrium is toxic when ingested, and can have serious effects on the human body. It can be absorbed through the skin, and can cause irritation and other symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Handling Precautions: Proper precautions should be taken when handling yttrium. It should be kept in a dry, well-ventilated area, and should not be ingested. Protective clothing and eyewear should always be worn when handling the element.

These interesting facts about yttrium demonstrate why it is such an important element, with many diverse applications. It is an important element for a variety of industries, from electronics to glassmaking, and its special properties make it an essential component in many materials.


Safety Concerns

Yttrium is generally a non-toxic element, but it can be hazardous to health in its dust and compound forms. If inhaled, yttrium dust particles can irritate the respiratory system and cause inflammation, although the dust is not considered to be carcinogenic.

Long-term exposure to yttrium compounds, such as yttrium oxide, can also lead to breathing problems and skin irritation. To this end, it is important to take precautionary measures when handling yttrium compounds.

When it comes to the environment, yttrium is not considered to be a significant source of environmental pollution. It is not considered to be a hazardous waste and does not bioaccumulate in animals or plants. However, it is important to take measures to prevent yttrium from entering the environment, as it can have a detrimental effect on aquatic ecosystems.

Given its use in industrial processes, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and hazards associated with yttrium. It is important to take all necessary precautions to ensure safety when working with yttrium or yttrium-based compounds. Protective measures should include the use of protective clothing, gloves, goggles, and a face mask.

It is also important to ensure there are sufficient ventilation and exhaust systems, as well as adequate containment and disposal procedures for yttrium compounds.

It is also important to be aware of the storage requirements for yttrium and yttrium compounds. The compounds should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and away from other toxic materials. Proper labeling and segregation should be used to ensure that yttrium is stored and handled correctly.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that yttrium and its compounds are flammable. This means that all necessary safety measures should be taken to prevent fires and other accidents. It is important to use approved and suitable fire-fighting equipment in the event of a fire.

Overall, it is important to take necessary safety precautions when handling yttrium and its compounds. This includes the use of protective clothing and equipment, proper storage and containment, and suitable fire-fighting equipment. Taking these safety measures will help to ensure the safe handling and disposal of yttrium and its compounds.



Pronunciation (IT-ree-əm)
Appearance silvery white
Standard atomic weight Ar°(Y)
  • 88.905838±0.000002
  • 88.906±0.001 (abridged)
Yttrium in the periodic table
Atomic number (Z) 39
Group group 3
Period period 5
Block   d-block
Electron configuration [Kr] 4d 5s
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 9, 2
Physical properties
Phase at STP solid
Melting point 1799 K ​(1526 °C, ​2779 °F)
Boiling point 3203 K ​(2930 °C, ​5306 °F)
Density (near r.t.) 4.472 g/cm3
when liquid (at m.p.) 4.24 g/cm3
Heat of fusion 11.42 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 363 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 26.53 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 1883 2075 (2320) (2627) (3036) (3607)
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 0, +1, +2, +3 (a weakly basic oxide)
Electronegativity Pauling scale: 1.22
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 600 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 1180 kJ/mol
  • 3rd: 1980 kJ/mol
Atomic radius empirical: 180 pm
Covalent radius 190±7 pm
Other properties
Natural occurrence primordial
Crystal structure ​hexagonal close-packed
Speed of sound thin rod 3300 m/s (at 20 °C)
Thermal expansion α, poly: 10.6 µm/(m⋅K) (at r.t.)
Thermal conductivity 17.2 W/(m⋅K)
Electrical resistivity α, poly: 596 nΩ⋅m (at r.t.)
Magnetic ordering paramagnetic
Molar magnetic susceptibility +2.15×10−6 cm3/mol (2928 K)
Young’s modulus 63.5 GPa
Shear modulus 25.6 GPa
Bulk modulus 41.2 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.243
Brinell hardness 200–589 MPa
CAS Number 7440-65-5
Naming after Ytterby (Sweden) and its mineral ytterbite (gadolinite)
Discovery Johan Gadolin (1794)
First isolation Friedrich Wöhler (1838)
Main isotopes Decay
abun­dance half-life (t1/2) mode pro­duct
87Y synth 3.4 d ε 87Sr
88Y synth 106.6 d ε 88Sr
89Y 100% stable
90Y synth 2.7 d β 90Zr
91Y synth 58.5 d β 91Zr

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