Dysprosium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 66 and with the chemical symbol Dy. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Dysprosium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Dysprosium is preceded by Terbium and is followed by Holmium.


Dysprosium is often characterized as a rare earth element, even though its abundance on Earth is far from extremely rare. In terms of physical and chemical characteristics it shows properties of a typical metal, although its similarities to the rest of the Lanthanide elements are quite diverse. This chemical element is especially worthy because of its high magnetism and its ductility. Dysprosium does not exist freely in its natural form on our planet and it is usually found in minerals like xenotime as a mixture of other elements and compounds. It is highly electropositive and it reacts readily with hot water. Its reactions to air and cold water are much slower. Dysprosium is mainly used in metallurgy, nuclear science and various hard-drive storage techniques.



Physical Characteristics of Dysprosium

The physical characteristics of this particular Lanthanide element can rapidly change even by the tiniest traces of any impurities. It is a solid, soft Lanthanide element, which has a bright silver metallic finish. Its softness allows it to be easily cut with a knife, which results in tarnishing its bright metallic luster. Dysprosium is one of the chemical elements with the highest magnetic strength. It exists in typical hexagonal close-packed crystal structure. Depending on the temperature Dysprosium may become ferromagnetic, antiferromagnetic, or even paramagnetic. Its melting and boiling points are quite high and it forms basic oxides with an oxidation state of 4, 3, 2 and 1.


Chemical Properties of Dysprosium


Atomic Number – 66

Group – n/a

Period – 6

Block – f

Electronic Configuration – 4f10 6s2

Relative Atomic Mass – 162.500 (162.5001 g/mol)

Molecular Weight – 162.500

Electronegativity – 1.22

Density (G CM-3) – 8.540 g/cm3 at room temperature; 8.37 g/cm3 in liquid state

Melting Point – 1680 K; 1407 °C; 2565 °F

Boiling Point – 2840 K; 2562 °C; 4653 °F

Atomic Radius – 178 pm

Isotopes – 7

Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 28, 8, 2


Discovery of Dysprosium

In 1886 a French chemist, named Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, isolated Dysprosium oxide from a sample of Holmium oxide. The isolation took him various long procedures, which included ammonia and acids. He couldn’t fully finish the isolation from his first attempt and it took him more than 30 attempts before he succeeded. He named the element Dysprosium after “dysprositos”, which means “hard to get” in Greek. The very first pure isolation of Dysprosium was carried out in the early 1950s with the advance of the ion exchange techniques.


Recognized by: Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1886)

Known and discovered by: Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1886)

Named by: Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran


Uses and role of Dysprosium

Dysprosium is relatively reactive, but it poses some danger, as it is an explosive material. Thus, it has a small selection of commercial and scientific applications. It is valued to for exceptional magnetic properties and has various uses mainly in lighting installations, metallurgy, and nuclear science.


It is used in the manufacturing of nuclear reactors, turbine generators, and motors for electric cars. In terms of lighting installations, Dysprosium plays a big role in the manufacturing of various lasers and metal-halide lamps. This Lanthanide chemical element is also used in the manufacturing of hard disks and permanent magnets. One of its scientific applications is based on its infrared radiation, which is useful for studying various chemical reactions.


Dysprosium on Earth

Dysprosium does not occur freely in its natural form on Earth. It is mainly found in minerals like xenotime, monazite, and bastnasite in combination with other chemical elements. Dysprosium can be found in the Earth’s crust, as well as in seawater. The biggest Dysprosium source nowadays is located in southern China where this chemical element is extracted from various clay ores.



A not so ground-breaking discovery claims that various Lanthanides and Rare Earths, which are essential for computers, electric cars and smartphones, including Dysprosium, will run out in the near future. The study behind the discovery suggests that Dysprosium, like other Lanthanides, could have hidden sources somewhere in the Amazon or even in outer space.