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.
||solid at 298 K
|CAS Registry ID
|Group in periodic table
|Period in periodic table
|Block in periodic table
||1936 K (1663°C or 3025°F)
||3675 K (3402°C or 6156°F)
|Phase at room temperature
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.
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.
Pure lutetium metal is obtained by the reduction of anhydrous chloride or fluoride with calcium, potassium or sodium.
2LuF3 + 3Ca → 2Lu + 3CaF2
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
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