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Facts About Scandium

Facts About Scandium
Placed in the 21st position in the periodic table, scandium is a metallic element with a silvery-white appearance. Read this article to know about some important facts about this element.
Rajib Singha
Rare Abundance
The percentage of scandium in the Universe is around 3x10-6, whereas, in the Sun, its value is 4x10-6. The amount of scandium on our planet and in meteorites is 0.0026% and 0.00064%, respectively. Till date its value in human beings is unknown.

Scandium is classified under transition metals, which have the property of being malleable and ductile, and the ability to conduct heat and electricity. The specific property of these elements is that the valence electrons in their atomic structure are present in more than one shell. Scandium is denoted by the symbol 'Sc', and is mildly toxic. It is separated in the form of a byproduct from the processing of certain kinds of uranium ores. Lars Nilson, a Swedish chemist, was responsible for the discovery of this element, which took place in the year 1879. The particular name was given after the country called Scandinavia, where it was discovered. Scandium is present on other celestial bodies like the Sun and Moon in larger percentages than our planet.
► On exposure to air, the appearance of this element changes from silvery white to a slightly yellowish or pinkish color.
► Scandium is affected extensively by weathering and corrosion, and hence, it can be easily dissolved in most dilute acids.
► This element is known to exist naturally as a single isotope, i.e., 45Sc, whereas, the number of stable radioisotopes of this element is 24. The latter ones do not occur naturally.
► Among the elements that are commonly available on the Earth's surface, scandium occupies the 50th position. The traces of these elements are quite dispersed in the Earth's crust.
► It is among the most common elements found in the Sun, and is placed at the 23rd position among the most common elements found in this star.
► The sources of this element are rare, and its main ores include thortveitite, euxenite, bazzite, wiikite, and gadolinite. It has been estimated that scandium is found in more than 700 minerals.
► Very few people are aware of the fact that scandium is in its most stable form during the formation of supernovas.
► It is possible to obtain the pure form of this element by reacting scandium fluoride with another element, like calcium and zinc.
► In USA, scandium is mainly derived from mining activities of other elements like tantalum and fluorine.
► Few examples like muscovite, garnet, beryl, etc., which are included under the category of aluminum phosphate minerals, show significant enrichment of scandium.
General Properties
Symbol Sc
Atomic Number 21
Atomic Mass 44.95591 amu (atomic mass units)
Category Transition Element
Electronic Configurations [Ar] 3d1 4s2
Number of Neutrons 24
Crystal/Lattice Structure Hexagonal
Physical Properties
Melting Point 1814 K (Kelvin)
Boiling Point 3109 K
Density 2.99 g/cc
Evaporation Heat 332.7 kJ/mol
Atomic Volume 15.0 cc/mol
Specific Heat 0.556 J/g mol
Molar Heat Capacity 25.52 J/mol K
Heat of Fusion 14.1 kJ/mol
Chemical Properties
Atomic Radius 162 pm
Oxidation States 3
Electronegativity 1.36 (Pauling's units)
First Ionization energy 633.1 kJ/mol
Second Ionization Energy 1235.0 kJ/mol
Third Ionization Energy 2388.6 kJ/mol
Covalent Radius 144 pm
Standard Reduction Potential -2.077 V
  • Scandium (in the form of scandium iodide) is employed in the manufacturing of lamps that provide high intensity of illumination (like sport stadiums and various newer versions of televisions, for efficient lighting).
  • These lamps are mercury vapor-based, and they emit light rays that are similar to sunlight.
  • Alloys of aluminum and scandium are also utilized in the manufacturing of baseball bats and bicycle frames.
  • This element is used in the production of nickel alkaline batteries and radioactive tracers (oil pipelines).
  • It is considered as a potential option for use in aeronautical engineering and space research.
  • The MiG jets that are manufactured in Russia mainly incorporate the use of aluminum-scandium alloys for imparting strength to their frames, and also to decrease overall weight.
  • Various revolvers are made by using the same Sc-Al alloy to get a lightweight and durable weapon frame.

As scandium is so rare on our planet, efforts are being made to decrease its usage and find out more options or alternatives for it. About 2 tons of this metal is extracted every year, which is a very small figure as compared to other transitional elements. Currently, only three mines are actively extracting this metal.