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Dysprosium (Dy)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Dy
  • Atomic Number: 66
  • Atomic Weight: 162.500
  • Element Classification: Lanthanide
  • Discovered By: Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran
  • Discovery Date: 1886
  • Name Origin: Greek: ‘dysprositos’ (hard to get), reflecting its rarity and difficulty to isolate
  • Density(g/cc): 8.55
  • Melting Point: 1412°C
  • Boiling Point: 2567°C
  • Appearance: Silvery-white, bright, soft, malleable, and ductile metal
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 178

Discovery

Dysprosium was discovered in 1886 by the French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran. He identified its existence through spectroscopic analysis of holmium oxide but was unable to isolate the element in its pure form. The actual isolation of dysprosium was achieved later. The name dysprosium comes from the Greek ‘dysprositos’, meaning “hard to get” or “difficult to access”, a nod to its elusiveness and the challenge associated with isolating it from its mineral compounds.

Relation to Other Elements

Dysprosium is a member of the lanthanide series, a group of metals known for their similar chemical properties and magnetic strengths. Like other lanthanides, dysprosium has a +3 oxidation state in most of its compounds. It is characterized by its high magnetic susceptibility, especially at low temperatures, which distinguishes it from other elements in the periodic table. Dysprosium’s unique magnetic properties are due to its unpaired electrons in the f-orbital.

Natural Occurrence

Dysprosium is not found free in nature but occurs in association with other lanthanides in minerals such as monazite and bastnasite. These minerals are the primary commercial sources of dysprosium. Despite being relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust compared to some other rare earth elements, dysprosium is challenging to separate and purify due to its close physical and chemical similarities with other lanthanides.

Uses

Dysprosium has several specialized applications, particularly in areas that require materials with exceptional magnetic properties:

  • Magnets: Dysprosium is used to manufacture neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets. Adding dysprosium to these magnets increases their resistance to demagnetization at high temperatures, making them suitable for use in electric vehicle motors and wind turbine generators.
  • Nuclear Reactors: Dysprosium’s ability to absorb neutrons and its high thermal neutron absorption cross-section make it useful in controlling nuclear reactions in certain types of nuclear reactors.
  • Data Storage: Dysprosium is explored for use in advanced data storage technologies, including hard disk drives, due to its magnetic properties.
  • Lighting: Dysprosium iodide is used in metal-halide lamps to produce a bright, white light that closely mimics natural sunlight, suitable for film and photography lighting, and in some indoor and outdoor lighting applications.

The discovery of dysprosium and the subsequent development of its applications have significantly impacted modern technology, particularly in enhancing the performance and efficiency of high-strength magnets used in clean energy and advanced electronic devices. Its specialized uses underscore the importance of rare earth elements in the ongoing development of new materials and technologies.

Terbium (Tb)

Erbium (Er)