Lanthanum Uses

Lanthanum Uses
Lanthanum is a malleable and ductile element, which comes under the rare element category. It is a soft metal. This article will provide you with information on this metal and its uses.
Lanthanum is a rare earth element which is found in minerals like bastnasite, monazite, cerite, and allanite. It is silvery white in color, and is so soft that it can be cut with a knife. It is also ductile, which means that if hammered, it can be drawn into a wire, and malleable, which means that it can be given any form by applying pressure to it. Don't get yourself confused with the term rare, because it is not literally rare, it comes under the rare earth elements group in the periodic table. It is symbolically represented as La and its atomic number is 57.

Lanthanum was discovered in 1839, by Carl Mosander, but its purified form was developed a century later. Its name was derived from the Greek term lanthanein, which means 'to lie hidden'. This is because, it was not an easy task for Mosander to discover the element, owing to it not being in its pure form. In recent years, it has been made available on a large-scale. It is largely used in misch metal, which in turn is used as a flint in lighters.

Lanthanum is amongst the most reactive metals and it oxidizes readily when exposed to air. It is less reactive to cold water than hot water. It must be handled with care, as it is highly reactive with elements like nitrogen, boron, carbon, sulfur, silicon, halogens, and phosphorous. It is used as a medicine for treatment of diseases, for lighting purposes, in optical fibers, pool cleaners, etc.

  • Lanthanum is used in the manufacturing of optics in glass. It is also used as a cracking catalyst for hydrocarbons in oil refineries.
  • Biologically, it is considered to be mildly toxic. Few studies have found out that exposure to this metal may result in organ damage, but when it is used for medication, it is processed for human use.
  • Being the first member of the lanthanide series, it is recovered by the process of solvent extraction from the bastnasite mineral. It is a vital element and is required as a catalyst to produce fuel for vehicles and aircraft.
  • It is used in fuel cells and batteries, in the form of alloys. They are used for power generation.
  • It is used widely in cameras, video cameras, and lenses. It is used in optics widely, as it provides more flexibility in the refractive index and helps in modifying the glass crystal structure.
  • One of its most important uses is in X-ray films and other types of lasers, as it helps in the reduction of harmful radiation to a large extent.
  • Lanthanum containing rare earth compounds are used widely in carbon lighting objects, also used in studio lighting and projection.
  • It is present in Misch metal, which is an alloy which when rubbed, produces sparks. It is used extensively in producing cigarette lighters.
  • Its compounds are also used in carbon arc lamps, which produce very bright white light.
  • Recently, lanthanum glass is being used for manufacturing optical fibers. It is a wire made of glass. Optical fibers are a great means of carrying video, audio, and digital data.
  • Medically, it is used for treating excessive blood phosphate levels (hyperphosphatemia), in patients who are on dialysis because of a kidney disease.
  • It should be taken orally only when prescribed by your doctor. It is to be chewed first and then swallowed only with water. It must not be swallowed as whole. You can crush the tablet to make it easier to chew.
Lanthanum is being used widely all over the world. In the near future, if electric vehicles are commercialized widely, then it will be used on a much larger scale.