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An Introduction to Dysprosium

Dysprosium (Dy) is an actinide series element. It was discovered in 1886 by Lecoq de Boisbaudran, but not isolated. It was not isolated until the development of techniques such as ion-exchange separation and metallographic reduction by Spedding and associates in 1950. It occurs along with the other so-called rare-earth elements in a variety of minerals such as xenotime, fergusonite, gadolinite, euxenite, polycrase and blomstrandine. The most important sources are those of monazite and bastnasite. Dysprosium can be prepared by the reduction of the trifluoride with calcium.

The element has a metallic bright silver lustre. The metal is soft enough to be cut with a knife, and machineable if not overheated. It is paramagnetic and small amounts of impurities greatly affect its physical properties. Its corrosion resistance is greater than that of other cerium metals.

Dysprosium is relatively stable in air at room temperature, and is readily attacked and dissolved, with the evolution of hydrogen, by both concentrated and dilute mineral acids.


Dysprosium is used in magnetic alloys and ferrites for microwave use.

Dysprosium is alloyed with special stainless steels for nuclear control applications i.e. nuclear reactor control rods, as a cermet (dysprosium oxide-nickel) cooling nuclear reactor control rods, whereby it absorbs neutrons readily without swelling or contracting under prolonged neutron bombardment.

It is used as a laser material when combined with vanadium and other rare earth metals.

Dysprosium-cadmium calcogenides as a source of infrared radiation.

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