Lanthanum is a silvery white metal that is never found in its free form in nature. It is a chemical element with the atomic number 67 and is represented with the symbol La. Despite not being found naturally in its free form, lanthanum is contained in some rare earth minerals. Despite this name lanthanum is not rare and it can be found in Monazite and bastnasite ores. Lanthanum is an important element and it has a number of applications.
Uses of lanthanum
- One of the first uses of this element was to create gas lantern mantles (the part that produces the white light when heated). This element is still used for this purpose today!
- A mischmetal (alloy of rare earth elements) containing lanthanum is used in nickel-metal hydride batteries. These are commonly found in hybrid cars and a typical hybrid battery contains about 10-15kg (22-33 lbs) of the element!
- Lanthanum is used in the production of flints.
- This element is also used in electronic vacuum tubes.
- Lanthanum fluoride is used to produce a special type of glass that is used in fiber optic communication systems. Lanthanum is also used to make other types of glass including optical glasses and camera and telescope lenses.
- The element can also be added to steel to improve the attributes of the steel. It helps to improve the malleability and ductility (workability) and resistance to impact.
- Lanthanum compounds are used as catalysts in petroleum cracking.
- Lanthanum-barium radiometric dating can be used to estimate the age of rock and ore.
- Phoslock, which is made with lanthanum, is used to remove unwanted phosphates from the water.
- Lanthanum is also used in neutron and gamma ray detectors, carbon arc lamps and phosphor lamps.
- Certain hydrogen sponge alloys contain lanthanum. These are used to store large volumes of hydrogen gas.