Yttrium | Descriptions, Properties, Uses & Facts

Yttrium | Descriptions, Properties, Uses & Facts

Unveiling the Wonders of Yttrium: A Journey into the World of Element 39


Welcome to the fascinating realm of element 39 on the periodic table – Yttrium. Symbolized as Y, this transition metal holds a unique place in the world of chemistry and materials science. In this blog post, we will explore the various aspects of yttrium, from its atomic properties to its applications and occurrence in the natural world.

Atomic Basics:

Symbol: Y

Atomic Number: 39

Atomic Mass: 88.90584 u (unified atomic mass units)

Electron Configuration: [Kr] 5s² 4d¹ or 1s² 2s² 2p⁶ 3s² 3p⁶ 4s² 3d¹⁰ 4p⁶ 5s² 4d¹⁰

Valency: Yttrium typically exhibits a valency of +3.

Chemical and Physical Properties:

Yttrium, a silvery-white, lustrous metal, shares several characteristics with the lanthanide series elements. Let's delve into some of its notable properties:

Density:Yttrium boasts a density of approximately 4.47 grams per cubic centimeter.

Melting Point:The melting point of yttrium is 1,522 degrees Celsius, showcasing its stability at high temperatures.

Boiling Point: Yttrium's boiling point is around 3,337 degrees Celsius, reflecting its resilience under extreme conditions.

Malleability and Ductility: Yttrium is reasonably malleable and ductile, allowing it to be shaped into various forms.

Reactivity and Interaction:

Yttrium displays a moderate reactivity, slowly reacting with oxygen to form a protective oxide layer. It does not tarnish rapidly in air, but finely divided yttrium can be pyrophoric, igniting spontaneously in air. Yttrium does not react with water as readily as some other alkali metals but can react with dilute acids.

Yttrium Compounds:

Yttrium Oxide (Y2O3): Used in the production of phosphors for color television tubes and LEDs.

Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG): A synthetic crystal with applications in lasers, gemstones, and medical imaging.

Yttrium Barium Copper Oxide (YBCO): A high-temperature superconductor used in various electronic applications.

Occurrence and Production:

Yttrium is found in minute amounts in many minerals, with the most notable source being the rare earth minerals monazite and xenotime. The separation of yttrium from other rare earth elements involves complex processes, such as ion exchange and solvent extraction.

Yttrium Uses:

1. Alloys:

Yttrium is often added to alloys to improve their strength and durability. Yttrium-aluminum alloys, for example, are used in aerospace components and high-performance sports equipment.

2. Lasers:

Yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG) crystals are widely used in laser technology. YAG lasers find applications in medical procedures (such as laser eye surgery), industrial cutting and welding, and military technologies.

3. Phosphors:

Yttrium compounds, particularly yttrium oxide, are used in the production of phosphors. These phosphors are crucial for creating the red color in cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) in older televisions and monitors.

4. Superconductors:

Yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) is a high-temperature superconductor. This material is used in the development of superconducting magnets and electronic devices that operate at extremely low temperatures.

5. Ceramics and Electronics:

Yttrium-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) is employed in the production of ceramic materials used in cutting tools, fuel cells, and other electronic components.

6. Medical Imaging:

Yttrium-90, a radioactive isotope of yttrium, is used in medicine for cancer treatment. Yttrium-90 microspheres are employed in a procedure called selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) for treating liver tumors.

7. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes):

Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) phosphors are utilized in LEDs to produce white light. This application contributes to the energy-efficient lighting industry.

8. Metallurgical Applications:

Yttrium is used as a deoxidizing agent in the production of various metals, including chromium and magnesium.

Yttrium Facts:

1. Discovery:

Yttrium chemical element was discovered in 1794 by Finnish chemist Johan Gadolin. It was named after the village of Ytterby in Sweden, which is also the namesake for several other rare earth elements.

2. Abundance:

Yttrium is relatively rare in the Earth's crust, occurring at an abundance of about 33 parts per million. However, it is more common than some other rare earth elements.

3. Similarity to Lanthanides:

Yttrium is often classified as a "rare earth element" due to its chemical similarities to the lanthanide series. However, it is not part of the lanthanide series itself.

4. Stable Isotopes:

Yttrium has only one stable isotope, yttrium-89. Several radioactive isotopes of yttrium also exist, with yttrium-90 being notable for its medical applications.

5. Chemical Properties:

Yttrium exhibits a moderate reactivity and forms a protective oxide layer when exposed to air. It does not tarnish rapidly and has a silvery-white appearance.

6. Mining Sources:

Yttrium is primarily obtained from the minerals monazite and xenotime, which are rich in rare earth elements.

7. High Melting Point:

Yttrium has a high melting point of 1,522 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for applications that involve elevated temperatures.

8. Global Production:

The leading producers of yttrium include China, which dominates the global rare earth element market. Other contributors include Russia and the United States.

Yttrium's unique properties and versatile applications make it a valuable element in various industries, contributing to advancements in technology, medicine, and materials science.


Yttrium, with its unique combination of properties and diverse applications, has become an indispensable element in modern technology. From contributing to the vibrant colors on our screens to enabling groundbreaking advancements in laser technology and superconductors, yttrium continues to captivate scientists and engineers alike. As we unravel more about the intricacies of this element, the possibilities for innovation and discovery seem boundless.

Also Read:

Neon | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Nitrogen | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Beryllium | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Hydrogen | Difference between Blue and Green Hydrogen | Hydrogen Fuel

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