Where Found (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Scandium is a transition element that is usually dispersed in minerals, and the only minerals in which it is concentrated are quite rare. It is difficult to extract from minerals and is usually mined as a by-product from mining other elements from some uranium deposits and from some iron-rich basic-to-ultrabasic igneous rocks—less than 52 weight percent silica (SiO2)—or the weathered products from these rocks.
China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Norway are producers of scandium. It is mostly mined and processed at Zhovti Vody, Ukraine, which has about 7 million metric tons of ore with 1.4 grams per metric ton of scandium. Some scandium has also been produced in the United States at Darby, Montana.
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Primary Uses (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Scandium is used in small amounts to strengthen metal products such as aluminum in baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, and bicycle frames. It also has been used in lighting, since scandium makes light appear to be the color of sunlight. Scandium has been used in lasers and aerospace applications as well.
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Technical Definition (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Scandium (abbreviated Sc) is a metal similar in properties and abundance to the rare earth elements (the lanthanide series). The element is difficult to separate from the other constituents in a mineral. It has never been found as a pure, uncombined element.
Scandium is a silvery-white metal with a density of 2.99 grams per milliliter at 25° Celsius. It has a boiling point of 2,700° Celsius and a melting point of 1,541° Celsius. It has an atomic number of 21 and an atomic weight of 45 grams per mole. Scandium normally has an oxidation state (charge) in a compound of plus three.
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Description, Distribution, and Forms (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Because scandium is so dispersed in minerals, there have been no large deposits of the element mined. Minerals containing scandium are extremely rare. These minerals include thortveitite, (Sc,Y)2Si2O7; bazzite, Be3Sc2Si6O18; kolbeckite, ScPO4H2O; cascandite, Ca(Sc,Fe)Si3O8(OH); and jervisite, (Na2,Ca,Fe) (Sc,Mg,Fe)Si2O6. Scandium has been mined almost entirely from the ores or mine tailings of other elements, such as titanium, uranium, zirconium, iron, and aluminum. Some of these deposits formed in igneous rocks (from molten rock material), contact metamorphic rocks (altered solid rocks changed because of contact with molten rock material), hot water deposits, recent weathering, recent stream deposits, and sedimentary rocks.
Igneous rocks containing the most scandium are found in iron and titanium minerals in basic and ultrabasic rocks such as ilmenite (less than 0.015 percent), pyroxene (less than 0.03 percent), and titanium-rich magnetite (less than 0.002 percent). Contact metamorphic rocks usually contain low scandium contents, although, in Kazakhstan, a few minerals such as iron-rich muscovite and beryl have been found to contain up to 0.4 percent scandium. Some high-scandium minerals have been found in hot water deposits in Utah. These include beryl (0.3 percent), hematite (0.1 percent), and brucite (0.5 percent). weathering deposits and stream deposits formed from basic and ultrabasic rocks that...
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History (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
In the nineteenth century, Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev developed the periodic table of the elements, in which the known elements were organized into groups with similar chemical properties. There were blank spaces in the table, in which he predicted that some yet undiscovered elements would be located. In 1869, he predicted that an element with an atomic mass between 40 and 48 should be located in one blank space, which he called ekaboron. In 1879, Lars Fredrick Nilson discovered a new element from the minerals gadolinite and euxenite using spectral analysis. This element fitted into the blank space in the periodic table for ekaboron. Nilson called the element scandium because it was found in Scandinavia. He produced 2 grams of scandium oxide.
Because of the rarity of scandium and the difficulty of separating it from its minerals, scandium metal was not produced until 1937. Electrolysis was used to prepare a small amount of scandium. The first kilogram of scandium was not produced until 1960. Then the properties of the metal could begin to be studied. Small amounts of scandium were added to aluminum, and the alloy was used in the aerospace industry, first in the Soviet Union and then in the United States. Most companies today use scandium oxide rather than the metal because the former costs only several thousand dollars per kilogram, whereas the latter costs a few hundred thousands of dollars per kilogram.
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Obtaining Scandium (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Scandium is obtained as a by-product from the processing of other elements from surface deposits or mine tailings. Minerals that are most concentrated in scandium may be physically separated from other minerals in a rock so that scandium oxide may be separated chemically from these minerals.
The amount of scandium oxide produced in the world each year is about 400 kilograms. Russia has stockpiled lots of scandium oxide, so that about 1,600 kilograms of scandium is added to the world supply from this source. Russia originally obtained this scandium from uranium mine tailings. Only about 10 kilograms of metallic scandium are produced each year.
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Uses of Scandium (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Scandium has been alloyed with aluminum and other metals in the amount of 0.1 to 0.5 percent to maintain low density and strength in the metal alloys. Russia was the first country to use scandium and aluminum alloys in the military, and they were used in MiG fighter planes and in nose cones of submarine-launched missiles. The missiles could be launched below the Arctic ice, piercing the ice without being damaged.
Scandium has more recently been alloyed with aluminum for uses in sports and camping equipment, such as in baseball bats, golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, bicycle frames, and tent poles. For instance, the National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed aluminum bats to be used in college baseball games starting in 1974. One study found that teams’ batting averages increased by twenty points and the number of home runs doubled, so most batters wanted to use aluminum bats. Thus, few wooden bats have been sold since this time because of these dramatic results. Major League Baseball teams, however, must still use wooden bats. Aluminum bicycle frames with added scandium have a 50 percent increase in strength, a 24 percent reduction in fatigue, and 12 percent less weight than aluminum frames without scandium.
Also, the gun maker Smith and Wesson makes what it calls an AirLite handgun, in which scandium is alloyed with the metal. This makes the revolver fairly light in weight and stronger than other guns.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Ahmad, Zaki. “The Properties and Application of Scandium-Reinforced Aluminum.” Journal of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society 55, no. 2 (2003): 35-39.
Bjerklie, Steve. “A Batty Business: Anodized Metal Bats Have Revolutionized Baseball but Are Finishers Losing the Sweet Spot?” Metal Finishing 104, no. 4 (April, 2006): 61-62.
Simpson, Robert S. Lighting Control-Technology and Applications. Boston: Focal Press, 2003.
Zakharov, V. V. “Effect of Scandium on the Structure and Properties of Aluminum Alloys.” Metal Science and Heat Treatment 45, nos. 7-8 (2003): 246-253.
WebElements. Scandium: The Essentials. http://www.webelements.com/scandium/
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Scandium (Chemical Elements)
The existence of scandium was predicted nearly ten years before it was actually discovered. The prediction was made by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907). Mendeleev developed the periodic table based on his periodic law. The periodic table is a chart that shows how chemical elements are related to one another. The table originally had a number of empty boxes for elements that had not been discovered. Chemists were able to search for these elements based on the properties of the elements around the empty boxes. Scandium was found in 1879 by Swedish chemist Lars Nilson (1840-99). It is a transition metal, appearing in Group 3 (IIIB).
Scandium is a moderately abundant element. However, it tends to be spread out throughout the earth rather than concentrated in a few places. This makes it difficult to isolate. In fact, scandium is classified as a rare earth element. Rare earth elements are not really "rare." However, they are difficult to extract from the earth. They are also difficult to separate from each other.
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