Yttrium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 39 and with the chemical symbol Y. This chemical element belongs to period 5 elements and the Transition Metals category. Similar to the rest of the Transition Metal elements Yttrium possesses various metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Yttrium is preceded by Strontium and is followed by Zirconium.


Yttrium is often regarded as a Rare Earth element, even though it is quite abundant in the Earth’s crust. It doesn’t occur freely in nature as a free element and can be found mostly in Uranium ores, some minerals, Lunar rocks and even in our bodies – in the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, bones and in breast milk. Yttrium is a relatively unstable chemical element, which reacts readily with many elements and compounds. This particular Transition Metal doesn’t have any known biological roles for human beings or other living organisms on our planet, but it has a vast variety of applications in metallurgy, electronics and lighting installations – mainly LED lights, lasers, and phosphors for various products and appliances.


Physical Characteristics of Yttrium

In terms of physical characteristics Yttrium shares various group trends with other chemical elements from period 5. It appears as a relatively soft metallic element with a silvery luster. It also bears some resemblances to Lanthanide elements and Rare Earths. Yttrium crystalizes in a typical hexagonal close-packed crystal structure and is relatively stable in air in its solid bulk form. However, without the passivation of its protective oxide film Yttrium is noteworthy unstable and can ignite spontaneously. This Transition Metal element has relatively high melting and boiling points – at 1799 K and 3203 K in their respective order.


Chemical Properties of Yttrium


Atomic Number – 39

Group – 3

Period – 5

Block – d

Electronic Configuration – 4d1 5s2

Relative Atomic Mass – 88.90585 (88.90585 g/mol)

Molecular Weight – 88.90585

Electronegativity – 1.22

Density (G CM-3) – 4.472 g/cm3 at room temperature; 4.24 g/cm3 in liquid state

Melting Point – 1799 K; 1526 °C; 2779 °F

Boiling Point – 3203 K; 2930 °C; 5306 °F

Atomic Radius – 180 pm

Isotopes – 1

Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 9, 2


Discovery of Yttrium

Back in 1789 a Finnish chemist and mineralogist, named Johan Gadolin, studied a sample of Ytterbite (later known as Gadolinite) rock and he found the presence of a new element in it. He managed to identify not the element itself, but Yttrium oxide. Three years later a Swedish chemist, named Anders Gustaf Ekeberg, proposed the name Yttria. Several decades later, in 1843 another Swedish chemist, going by the name of Carl Gustaf Mosander, found that Yttria actually contained several oxides. However, the first relatively pure isolation of the element was carried out by another scientist, named Friedrich Wöhler, who succeeded in isolation Yttrium in 1828 by heating up Yttrium Chloride and Potassium.


The name Yttrium was derived from the Ytterbite (or Gadolinite) rock, which originated from the Swedish village Ytterby.


Recognized by:   Johan Gadolin (1794)

Known and discovered by: Johan Gadolin (1794)

Named by: Anders Gustaf Ekeberg (1797)


Uses and role of Yttrium

Yttrium does not play any known biological role for human beings or other living organisms on our planet. However, it can be found in human breast milk, bones, liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs. This chemical element has a large variety of commercial uses and applications mainly focused around electronics, lighting installations, metallurgy and medicine.


For example, Yttrium is used in the manufacturing of phosphors, LED lights, lasers, TV ray tubes, electrolytes, electrodes, electronic filters, and other types of similar products. This Transition Metal is also a reliable superconductor. Yttrium has many uses in present day medicine when it comes to curing leukemia, cancer, and other types of pancreatic, bone, ovarian and liver diseases.


Yttrium on Earth

Yttrium does not occur as a free element on Earth. Instead, it can be found mainly in Uranium ores and some Rare Earth minerals. It is believed to be the 28th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, even though it is often wrongfully categorized as a Rare Earth element.



It has been discovered that regardless of the fact that Yttrium can be found in the human body, it can actually lead to lung diseases as it is highly toxic. Nevertheless, it has found a ground-breaking application in medicine as Yttrium needles can make precise cuts in spinal cords, which can surmount the disadvantages of less precise scalpels.