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Fun Facts Of The Scandium Element

Updated on January 8, 2012

Scandium Fun Facts Are Abundant

photo by Jurvetson (flickr)
photo by Jurvetson (flickr)

Scandium Facts And Uses

The element Scandium was discovered in 1879 lumped in with other Rare Earth Elements in two rare earth minerals called euxenite and gadolinite. The similarity of the so-called rare earth elements made them difficult for early discoverers to separate and identify individually. It was this property which gave rise to the rare earth nomenclature. However, with more modern innovations such as spectral analysis these elements have been successfully identified and it has now been realized that Scandium is sufficiently different from that group of elements to the extent that most chemists would not classify it as a rare earth element at this time. However, this does not mean that Scandium is not an extremely fascinating element in its own right and in fact it has many new potential uses that could transform the world in great ways. Let's look at some scandium fun facts.

The most basic facts (perhaps scandium fun facts to some) about Scandium (Sc) are that it has an atomic number of 21 and an atomic weight of about 44.955912. These are basic facts that can be found on any datasheet or in any encyclopedia nowadays. However, that was not the case at the time of its discovery before the turn of the 20th century. At that time only the atomic weight was able to be determined because in theory the atom was considered to be the most basic building block of all elements. Chemistry now understands that things go much deeper than that with protons, electrons, neutrons and various other particles creating a single atom. At that time a Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was devising a way to categorize the elements based on the known atomic weights as he produced the mainstay two volume chemistry book of that era titled Principles of Chemistry. His classification system became what is now known as the periodic table of elements. The gaps in the visual presentation of the elements led him to predict the presence of an element he called ekaboron which later was actually discovered and is now the fascinating element known as Scandium. From there many further scandium fun facts were not far behind.

Scandium is a metal sometimes referred to as a rare earth metal for the reason listed above. This rarity coupled with difficulty in finding and processing ore deposits with large concentrates has led to a high price for the metallic element. Something on the order of over $100,000 per kilogram at some points. These high prices have previously limited applications to alloys which contain only a small percentage of the light metal. Scandium is a particularly popular choice for many sports related items. Scandium baseball bats have been marketed by Easton, Lousville Slugger, and other bat manufacturers. It is used in some bike frames where an aluminum-scandium alloy can improve the welding characteristics and allow for a thinner frame wall. Brine lacrosse shafts are often marketed with a similar alloy material as well. Outside of sports scandium alloys have been found in the defense sector making up parts of jet fighter planes and rockets. Metallurgists have even used Aluminum/Scandium alloys in guns such as Smith & Wesson Centennial . The scandium component in these guns prevents recrystallization of the alloy during heat treatment and ultimately provides a strong, light, durable weapon.

These alloys have indeed found many applications in the free market but modern technology and research is leading to even greater potentials for the element named after the Scandinavian peninsulas where it was originally found. The governmental green-energy initiatives that have led to hybrid cars and alternative fuel sources may be an emerging market to watch. Hydrogen fuel tanks which incorporate porous scandium should be able to overcome the current difficulties in storing the alternative fuel source. While hydrogen can provide around 3 times the energy of gasoline it is only a tenth of the density which means that storing hydrogen in a conventional tank would result in large fuel containers which may not be feasible. There is new research that shows that the lightweight and bonding properties of Scandium could solve this problem and go a ways towards reducing the world's reliance on fossil fuels.

The alternative energy sources may in fact be tipping point for this and similar elements. As rare earth element companies and governments rush to boost supplies and diminish the world's dependency on China for the material then only better things can be in the future. If the supplies can be reclaimed and costs brought down, the future for everyone will likely lead towards a brighter tomorrow.


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      Dan Harmon 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      An interesting hub about an interesting element. I studied chemistry many years ago, but don't remember ever seeing any real information about scandium.

      I'm sure we will continue to find uses for scandium - the possibility of using it in H2 tanks is just such an example.