Lutetium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 71 and with the chemical symbol Lu. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Lutetium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Lutetium is preceded by Ytterbium and is followed by Hafnium.
Lutetium is the last chemical element in the Lanthanides category and is often considered as a Rare Earth element. Compared to other Lanthanides Lutetium’s hardness is especially noteworthy as this element has the highest Brinell hardness of all Lanthanides. Lutetium is relatively rare and has only a handful of commercial applications, mainly in metallurgy and electronics. It is also used in nuclear science and medicine. Lutetium never occurs freely in nature. However, it can be found as a mixture consisting of nearly all other Lanthanides and Rare Earth elements. It is mainly found in monazite and phosphate and is extremely difficult to separate from other chemical elements. It is moderately toxic and flammable and poses irritation and burn hazard to exposed skin. It can be found in the liver, the kidneys and the bones in human beings, even though it does not play any biological roles.
Physical Characteristics of Lutetium
Lutetium appears as a solid, relatively stable metallic element with a silvery-white metallic luster. It can resist corrosion in dry air, but not in moist temperatures. This particular chemical element has noteworthy high melting and boiling points – 1925K and 3675K in their respective order. Lutetium forms weakly basic oxides in oxidation states of +3, +2 and +1. It crystalizes in a hexagonal close-packed crystal structure typical for most Lanthanide elements. Lutetium is paramagnetic and it is soluble in dilute sulfuric acids and other weak acids. Its ions are colorless. Its oxides are insoluble in water.
Chemical Properties of Lutetium
Atomic Number – 71
Group – n/a
Period – 6
Block – d
Electronic Configuration – 6s2 4f14 5d1
Relative Atomic Mass – 174.9 (174.9668 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 174.9
Electronegativity – 1.27
Density (G CM-3) – 9.841 g/cm3 at room temperature; 9.3 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 1925 K; 1652 °C; 3006 °F
Boiling Point – 3675 K; 3402 °C; 6156 °F
Atomic Radius – 174 pm
Isotopes – 1
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 32, 9, 2
Discovery of Lutetium
The discovery of Lutetium was carried out independently by three scientists – the Austrian mineralogist Baron Carl Auer von Welsbach, the French scientist Georges Urbain, and the American chemist Charles James. However, only Carl Auer von Welsbach is officially credited with the discovery of Lutetium in 1906. The chemical element was named by Georges Urbain in 1906 after the Latin name for Paris – Lutetia. The very first pure Lutetium was isolated in 1953.
Recognized by: Carl Auer von Welsbach, Georges Urbain, and Charles James (1906)
Known and discovered by: Carl Auer von Welsbach, Georges Urbain, and Charles James (1906)
Named by: Georges Urbain (1906)
Uses and role of Lutetium
Lutetium does not play any known biological role in human beings or other living organisms on our planet. However, it has several commercial and scientific applications, regardless of its rarity and expensiveness, focused mainly around metallurgy, nuclear science and medicine.
Lutetium has many uses in lighting installations as laser and LED light particle. It is also used in X-ray devices and phosphors. One of Lutetium’s scientific uses is for meteorite dating. Lutetium also plays a key role in nuclear medicine for radionuclide therapy against neuroendocrine tumors, as well as bone pain palliations. The Lutetium-176 isotope is also used as an effective beta emitter.
Lutetium on Earth
Like most Lanthanide elements Lutetium does not occur freely on Earth. It is found as a mixture of other chemical elements, mainly Lanthanides and Rare Earths, in ores and minerals like monazite. Lutetium is extremely expensive due to the fact that it is not abundant on Earth and due to the fact that it is extremely hard to obtain as a pure element. Its price is nearly ¼ of the price of Gold.
It was recently discovered that Lutetium compounds can be used to develop innovative ways to treat gastro-intestinal tumors, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.