scandium element

Scandium - Element (Sc) of the periodic table

Updated: September 2023 | 12 min read

Scandium (Sc) as a transition metal:

Transition metals can exist in various oxidation states, making them versatile in chemical reactions. They also boast high melting and boiling points, ideal for applications requiring elevated temperatures. Exceptional catalytic properties enable them to accelerate reactions without being consumed, essential in industrial processes and catalytic converters. Transition metals, with their metallic luster, often serve as alloying elements, enhancing the strength and durability of materials. In this article we will explore the properties and applications of the transition metal scandium in more detail.

Properties of scandium

Atomic Number:21
Atomic Symbol:Sc
Atomic Weight (amu):44.956
Melting point:1541.00°C | 2805.80°F | 1814.15K
Boiling point:2836.00°C | 5136.80°F | 3109.15K

What does scandium look like?

Scandium is a silvery-white metal with a metallic luster, similar in appearance to other transition metals. It has a bright, shiny surface and reflects light well, giving it a characteristic metallic sheen. Scandium's appearance is quite typical for metals and doesn't have any particularly distinctive visual features.

Will we ever run out of scandium?

Scandium is relatively rare in the Earth's crust, and its availability depends on mining and extraction efforts. While we won't technically "run out" of scandium, its scarcity can affect its cost and availability for various applications. Recycling and more efficient extraction methods can help mitigate scarcity concerns. Additionally, as technology evolves, alternatives or substitutions for scandium may emerge in certain applications, reducing dependence on this element. Overall, managing the supply of rare elements like scandium is crucial to ensure their sustainable use in various industries.

Can scandium be recycled

Yes, scandium can be recycled, allowing for the recovery and reuse of this valuable metal in various industries. Recycling helps conserve resources and reduce the environmental impact associated with new scandium extraction.

Does scandium have a biological role?

Scandium does not have any known biological roles in living organisms. Unlike essential trace elements like iron or zinc, scandium is not known to play any significant biological functions or participate in metabolic processes in humans or other living organisms. It is not considered a biologically relevant element and is typically of interest only in industrial and scientific applications.

What is pure scandium used for?

  • Aerospace: Scandium-aluminum alloys are used in aircraft components, such as lightweight landing gear and structural parts, to improve strength and fuel efficiency.
  • Sports Equipment: Scandium-aluminum alloys create high-performance, lightweight sports gear, including baseball bats and bicycle frames.
  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells: Scandium-stabilized zirconia is used as an electrolyte material in solid oxide fuel cells, enhancing efficiency.
  • High-Intensity Lighting: Scandium iodide is employed in high-intensity discharge lamps, offering efficient, bright lighting for stadiums and film production.
  • Research: Scandium compounds have applications in research, like catalysis and material science.

What are the main compounds with scandium?

  • Scandium Oxide (Sc2O3) : Used as a component in the production of high-temperature superconductors and as a catalyst in organic synthesis.
  • Scandium Chloride (ScCl3) : Employed in research and as a catalyst in organic chemistry reactions.
  • Scandium Fluoride (ScF3) : Used in the production of high-intensity discharge lamps and as a catalyst in various chemical processes.
  • Scandium Aluminum Alloys : Alloys containing scandium and aluminum, which are utilized in aerospace, sports equipment, and other high-strength applications.

Where can scandium be found?

Scandium is a relatively rare element and is not found in large quantities in Earth's crust. It is typically found in the Earth's crust as a trace element in various minerals, including:

  • Thortveitite: This rare mineral is one of the primary natural sources of scandium. It contains a significant percentage of scandium in its composition.
  • Bauxite Deposits: Some bauxite deposits, which are the primary source of aluminum, may also contain small amounts of scandium.
  • Residues from Rare Earth Element Mining: Scandium can be extracted as a byproduct from the processing of certain rare earth element ores.
  • Scandium-Enriched Soils: In some regions, soils can have higher concentrations of scandium, although these levels are usually quite low.
Scandium is produced primarily in China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Norway, and Australia. These countries have significant scandium reserves and extraction capabilities.

Is scandium expensive?

Yes, scandium is considered relatively expensive due to its limited natural abundance, challenging extraction, specialized applications, and market demand in industries like aerospace and sports equipment.

Who discovered scandium?

Scandium was discovered by the Swedish chemist Lars Fredrik Nilson in 1879. Nilson isolated scandium from the rare mineral euxenite, which had been previously discovered in Scandinavia. He named the element "scandium" after the Latin name for Scandinavia, "Scandia." Nilson's work helped establish scandium as a distinct element on the periodic table.

Is scandium dangerous?

No, scandium is not considered dangerous in its elemental form. It is not toxic and does not pose significant health risks to humans. However, like many metals, scandium compounds can be hazardous if mishandled or ingested in large quantities, so appropriate safety precautions should be taken when working with them.

Fun facts about scandium

  • While natural scandium is not radioactive, some radioactive isotopes of scandium exist. Scandium-44 (44Sc) is used in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, a medical imaging technique.
  • Scandium has been used in the control rods of nuclear reactors due to its excellent resistance to neutron capture, helping regulate nuclear fission reactions.
  • Scandium is believed to be formed primarily through nucleosynthesis in supernovae, which are massive stellar explosions. This means that the scandium in our environment has cosmic origins from these cataclysmic events in the universe.

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