Praseodymium is a soft, silver metal that is highly reactive. It oxidizes in air to form a flaky green coating which falls off the outside of the metal. This means that any pure metal that is produced must be stored in mineral oil or glass. It is a chemical element with the atomic number 59 and the chemical symbol Pr. It is never found in its free form in nature, because it is too reactive, but can be found in certain minerals. It is commonly found in the rare earth minerals bastnäsite (bastnaesite) and monazite. Praseodymium is a rare element and only small amounts are produced each year. Let’s find out who discovered this element.
Who discovered praseodymium?
The first step in the discovery of praseodymium came in the mid 1800’s when Swedish chemist Carl Gustav Mosander became the first person to extract rare earth residue he called didymium from another type of residue he called lantana. In 1874 Swedish chemist Per Teodor Cleve went on to conclude that didymium was a mixture of two elements. He was proved correct in 1885 when Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach was the first to separate the didymium into the two elements (now known as praseodymium and neodymium). The salts of these elements gave off different colors and the name praseodymium comes from the Greek word “prasios,” which means green, and “didymos,” which means twin.
Did you know?
The separation of praseodymium remained difficult for many years and yields of the purified material were very low. This meant that there were few commercial applications of the element. It was first used to color glass, but was considered to be too expensive for this task. The first main use for praseodymium was a yellow-orange colored stain used in ceramics and it is still used for this purpose today!