Holmium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 67 and with the chemical symbol Ho. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Holmium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Holmium is preceded by Dysprosium and is followed by Erbium.
Holmium is a typical Lanthanide chemical element. It has a silvery-white metallic finish and is a malleable and relatively soft element. It reacts readily with air, water and other chemical elements. Holmium is extremely valuable due to the fact that it has the highest magnetic permeability among all chemical elements in the Periodic Table. It does not occur freely in nature on Earth, because of its high reactivity. It is relatively stable after isolation, even though it gets rapidly tarnished when exposed to air and high temperatures. Holmium is used mainly in glass manufacturing, in light installations, in nuclear science, and in the manufacturing of magnets.
Physical Characteristics of Holmium
When it comes to physical characteristics Holmium is a typical Lanthanide element. It appears as a silvery-white metallic element and it rusts readily. Holmium’s melting point and boiling point are exceptionally high – it melts at 1734K and burns at 2873K. While it is a highly reactive material, Holmium is quite stable at room temperature and in dry air when it’s isolated. It is soft and malleable and it forms a particularly interesting Holmium oxide, which changes its color from yellowish to orange and even to pink depending on the light source. Due to its unusually high magnetic properties it becomes paramagnetic under ambient conditions and ferromagnetic when subjected to temperatures below 19K.
Chemical Properties of Holmium
Atomic Number – 67
Group – n/a
Period – 6
Block – f
Electronic Configuration – 4f11 6s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 164.9 (164.93032 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 164.93032
Electronegativity – 1.23
Density (G CM-3) – 8.79 g/cm3 at room temperature; 8.34 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 1734 K; 1461 °C; 2662 °F
Boiling Point – 2873 K; 2600 °C; 4712 °F
Atomic Radius – 176 pm
Isotopes – 1
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 29, 8, 2
Discovery of Holmium
Even though only one scientist is officially credited with the discovery of Holmium, three scientists discovered the element independently in 1878 – the Swiss chemist Marc Delafontaine, another Swiss chemist, named Jacques-Louis Soret, and a Swedish mineralogist, named Per Teodor Cleve. Per Teodor Cleve proposed to name the newly discovered element Holmia after Stockholm’s old Latin name. It was later discovered that the chemical all three scientists had found wasn’t pure Holmium, but was actually Holmium oxide.
Recognized by: Marc Delafontaine, Jacques-Louis Soret, and Per Teodor Cleve (1878)
Known and discovered by: Marc Delafontaine, Jacques-Louis Soret, and Per Teodor Cleve (1878)
Named by: Per Teodor Cleve
Uses and role of Holmium
Compared to other Lanthanide elements Holmium does not have as many uses and roles in scientific or commercial terms. It is mainly used in nuclear science, lighting installations, magnet manufacturing and glass manufacturing.
Holmium is used in nuclear reactors because it has the ability to neutrons created as a by-product of nuclear fission. Combined with other Lanthanides is used in the manufacturing of lasers, which have various medicinal and scientific purposes. When it comes to glass manufacturing this particular element is applied in coloring, strengthening sharpening the optical specter of glass pieces. It is also used in gamma ray spectrometers. It does not play any known biological role to human beings or other living organisms on our planet.
Holmium on Earth
Typically for all Lanthanides, Holmium does not occur freely in its natural form on Earth. Instead, it can be found as a mixture of other chemical elements in various minerals and ores. It can be found in Earth’s soil, in the atmosphere and even in seawater. While Holmium is a rare Lanthanide and is usually categorized as a rare earth element, it is far from the rarest elements found on Earth. Compared to the rest of the chemical elements in the Periodic Table Holmium is in fact the 56th most abundant chemical element in our planet’s crust.
It was recently discovered that Holmium can be successfully used in the so called HoLEP therapy – “Holmium laser enucleation of the prostate” as a way of treatment of elder patients suffering from prostatic hyperplasia.