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Science Innovation Centre · 039 · Yttrium

This element is no longer available.

Yttrium is a highly crystalline iron-grey, rare-earth metal. Yttrium is fairly stable in air, because it is protected by the formation by the formation of a stable oxide film on its surface, but oxidizes readily when heated. It reacts with water decomposing it to release hydrogen gas, and it reacts with mineral acids. Shavings or turnings of the metal can ignite in air when they exceed 400°C. When yttrium is finely divided it is very unstable in air.

The largest use of the element is as its oxide yttria, Y2O3, which is used in making red phosphors for colour television picture tubes. Yttrium metal has found some use alloyed in small amounts with other metals and It is used to increase the strength of aluminium and magnesium alloys. When added to cast iron it make the metal more workable. Although metals are generally very good at conducting heat, there is an alloy of yttrium with chromium and aluminium which is heat resistant. Yttrium oxide in glass makes it heat- and shock-resistant, and is used for camera lenses. Yttrium oxide is suitable to making superconductors, which are metal oxides which conduct electricity without any loss of energy.