Scandium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 21 and with the chemical symbol Sc. This chemical element belongs to period 4 elements and the Transition Metals category. Similar to the rest of the Transition Metal elements Scandium possesses various metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Scandium is preceded by Calcium and is followed by Titanium.
In terms of physical and chemical properties Scandium shares some group trends with the rest of the Transition Metals in the Periodic Table. This chemical element is low on availability and its production is rather difficult. As such, Scandium doesn’t have a variety of commercial applications unlike other Transition Metal elements. It is used in metallurgy for alloys and various industrial components, such as revolvers, bicycle components and metal halide lamps. It is considered as an element with moderate to none toxicity. Scandium isn’t a rare element, but it exists in small traces in minerals and in supernovas – the latter of which hold more stable forms of the element than the Earth’s crust does.
Physical Characteristics of Scandium
When it comes to physical characteristics Scandium shows group trends with other Transition Metals, although it is often considered as part of the Rare Earths. It is a relatively soft element, which has a silvery-white metallic luster. The luster tarnishes in oxidation and it creates a layer of pinkish or slightly yellowish finish. Scandium is rather susceptible to weathering and erosion. It exists in a solid state and crystalizes in a hexagonal close-packed crystal structure. Scandium’s melting and boiling points are extremely high – at 1814 K and 3109 K in their respective order.
Chemical Properties of Scandium
Atomic Number – 21
Group – 3
Period – 4
Block – d
Electronic Configuration – 3d1, 4s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 44.955 (44.955912 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 44.955912
Electronegativity – 1.36
Density (G CM-3) – 2.985 g/cm3 at room temperature; 2.80 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 1814 K; 1541 °C; 2806 °F
Boiling Point – 3109 K; 2836 °C; 5136 °F
Atomic Radius – 162 pm
Isotopes – 1
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 9, 2
Discovery of Scandium
A Swedish chemist, named Lars Fredrik Nilson, discovered the element Scandium back in 1879. Nilson and his scientific team found traces of the new element in samples of gadolinite and euxenite. They managed to produce Scandium oxide, but could not fully isolate the chemical just yet. Nilson decided to name the newly discovered element Scandium after the Latin word “Scandia”, which means “Scandinavia”.
The very first isolation of Scandium was carried out in 1937 through electrolysis, but the first pure production of the element was done in 1960.
Recognized by: Lars Fredrik Nilson (1879)
Known and discovered by: Lars Fredrik Nilson (1879)
Named by: Lars Fredrik Nilson (1879)
Uses and role of Scandium
As a relatively rare chemical element and due to the fact that its production is rather difficult, Scandium doesn’t have many commercial uses. It plays a big role in metallurgy for a large variety of alloys.
Various Scandium alloys play a role in industrial components. For example, Scandium-Aluminum alloys are used for aircraft particles, bicycle components, Lacrosse sticks, and baseball bats. Some revolvers are also made with Scandium-based alloys. This Transition Metal is also used in dental medicine for dental lasers. Metal halide lamps also feature Scandium. Another application of this chemical element can be found in organic chemistry as a catalytic Lewis acid, as well as in oil refineries as tracing agents.
Scandium on Earth
Contrary to wrongful belief, Scandium is not a particularly rare chemical element on Earth. It is abundant in the Earth’s crust, even though it is found only in small traces in several types of minerals, including euxenite, gadolinite and thortveitite. Scandium is categorized as the 50th most common chemical element on Earth. Apart from being abundant in the Earth’s crust, it can also be found in supernovas and even in the Sun.
Several recent studies and discoveries have ruled out that Scandium, which has been thought to be present only in the Earth’s lithosphere, is also abundant in seawater. The studies show that this element along some Rare Earths is composed deep in the ocean’s seabed, suggesting that there might be additional natural Scandium sources, which have never been used.