Editorial Feature

Lutetium (Lu) - Discovery, Occurrence, Production, Properties and Applications of Lutetium

Chemical Formula

Lu

Background

Georges Urbain, Charles James and Carl Auer von Welsbach independently discovered lutetium from ytterbium oxide. In 1907, French chemist Georges Urbain separated lutetium from ytterbia in Paris. Using fractional crystallization technique, he separated ytterbia into two rare earth oxides namely ytterbium and lutecium, which was later renamed lutetium.

Austrian scientist Carl Auer von Welsbach, isolated the same element from ytterbia and named the element cassipoium. During the same time period, American chemist Charles James isolated lutetium using bromate fractional crystallization process. Lutetium derived its name from the Latin name of Paris, Lutetia.

Basic Information

Name Lutetium
Symbol Lu
Atomic number 71
Atomic weight 174.9 amu
Standard state solid at 298 K
CAS Registry ID 7439-94-3
Group in periodic table 3
Period in periodic table 6
Block in periodic table d-block
Color silvery white
Classification Metallic
Melting point 1936 K (1663°C or 3025°F)
Boiling point 3675 K (3402°C or 6156°F)
Density 9.84 g/cm3
Phase at room temperature Solid

Occurrence

Lutetium has a concentration of around 0.8 to 1.7 ppm in the Earth’s crust. It is estimated that nearly 0.03% of lutetium is present in monazite ores.

Isotopes

Lutetium has 35 isotopes with mass numbers ranging from 150Lu to 184Lu. 175Lu and 176Lu are naturally-occurring stable isotopes with the respective half-lives of 97.4% and 2.6%. All the other isotopes are radioactive.

Production

Pure lutetium metal is obtained by the reduction of anhydrous chloride or fluoride with calcium, potassium or sodium.

         2LuF3 + 3Ca → 2Lu + 3CaF2

Key Properties

The following are some of the key properties of lutetium:

  • It is a silvery-white rare earth metal
  • It is soft and ductile
  • It exists in trivalent state in compounds
  • It is harder and denser than all lanthanides
  • It is stable in air
  • It reacts slowly with water, but dissolves rapidly in acids.
Lutetium (version 1) - Periodic Table of Videos

Applications

Some of the major applications of lutetium include the following:

  • It can be used as a catalyst for polymerization/hydrogenation processes and also for cracking hydrocarbons
  • It is used in detectors of positron emission topography that detects cellular activity of the body
  • It is used in cancer treatment
  • It also finds applications in determining the age of meteorites

References

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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