Yttrium is a transition metal with the atomic number of 39 and the chemical symbol Y. It is a rare earth element and is never found in nature as a free element. Yttrium has only one stable, naturally occurring isotope 2Y and 19 unstable isotopes. Yttrium was discovered in 1787 by Carl Axel Arrhenius and first isolated in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler. Yttrium has no known biological function, but it has some important commercial applications. Let’s find out how yttrium is used in the world today.
Uses of Yttrium
- Yttrium oxide sulphide is the substance that gives the red colour in television tubes. The Yttrium collects the energy from the electron gun and passes it to the phosphor. It can also be combined with a doping agent to create green light.
- Yttrium is used as a catalyst on the electrodes of high performance spark plugs.
- The gas mantles for propane lanterns are also manufactured from yttrium. The element thorium was once used for this purpose, but is radioactive!
- Yttrium stabilized zirconia is used in the exhaust system of automobiles as a solid electrolyte and oxygen sensor.
- Yttrium is used in the production of a number of different types of synthetic garnets (gemstone or abrasive material). Yttrium iron garnets are used as microwave filters and as transmitters and transducers of acoustic energy. Yttrium combined with iron, aluminium, and gadolinium make garnets that have magnetic properties.
- These garnets are sometimes used as a replacement for diamonds in jewellery.
- Yttrium zirconia is also used in jewellery with yttrium added to stabilize the zirconium.
- Cerium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet crystals are used to make white LED’s.
- Yttrium is also combined with lithium fluoride and orthovanadate to create near-infrared lazers, also called YAG lasers. YAG Lasers are used for drilling and/or cutting metals.
- Yttrium is commonly added to alloys to improve corrosion resistance and improve workability.
- Yttrium is used in the creation of camera lenses and in ceramic glazes to provide shock resistance.
- yttrium-90 is used in the medical field as a treatment for various types of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia, ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, and bone cancers.
- Needles used for severing nerves in the spinal cord are made from yttrium. These are more precise and much sharper than scalpels.
- Yttrium is also used in the construction of superconductors. It is alloyed with barium and copper.