From New World Encyclopedia
39 strontiumyttriumzirconium


periodic table
Name, Symbol, Number yttrium, Y, 39
Chemical series transition metals
Group, Period, Block 3, 5, d
Appearance silvery white
Atomic mass 88.90585(2) g/mol
Electron configuration [Kr] 4d1 5s2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 9, 2
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 4.472 g/cm³
Liquid density at m.p. 4.24 g/cm³
Melting point 1799 K
(1526 °C, 2779 °F)
Boiling point 3609 K
(3336 °C, 6037 °F)
Heat of fusion 11.42 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 365 kJ/mol
Heat capacity (25 °C) 26.53 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P/Pa 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T/K 1883 2075 (2320) (2627) (3036) (3607)
Atomic properties
Crystal structure hexagonal
Oxidation states 3
(weakly basic oxide)
Electronegativity 1.22 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
1st: 600 kJ/mol
2nd: 1180 kJ/mol
3rd: 1980 kJ/mol
Atomic radius 180 pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 212 pm
Covalent radius 162 pm
Magnetic ordering no data
Electrical resistivity (r.t.) (α, poly) 596 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 17.2 W/(m·K)
Thermal expansion (r.t.) (α, poly)
10.6 µm/(m·K)
Speed of sound (thin rod) (20 °C) 3300 m/s
Speed of sound (thin rod) (r.t.) 63.5 m/s
Shear modulus 25.6 GPa
Bulk modulus 41.2 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.243
Brinell hardness 589 MPa
CAS registry number 7440-65-5
Notable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of yttrium
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
87Y syn 3.35 d ε - 87Sr
γ 0.48, 0.38D -
88Y syn 106.6 d ε - 88Sr
γ 1.83, 0.89 -
89Y 100% Y is stable with 50 neutrons
90Y syn 2.67 d β- 2.28 90Zr
γ 2.18 -
91Y syn 58.5 d β- 1.54 91Zr
γ 1.20 -

Yttrium (chemical symbol Y, atomic number 39) is a lustrous, silvery metal that is found in most rare-earth minerals. It is relatively stable in air, but its finely divided form is highly unstable in air. It was the "secret" element used in the production of the first high-temperature superconductor (yttrium barium copper oxide, or YBCO). Two of its compounds are used to make red-color phosphors for the picture tubes of color television sets, and others are used to produce infrared lasers.

Yttrium iron garnet is an effective microwave filter, and yttrium aluminum garnet is used as a gemstone. Yttrium is also used as a catalyst for certain reactions and in gas mantles for propane lanterns.


Yttrium occurs in nature in almost all rare-earth minerals and uranium ores, but never as a free element. It is commercially recovered from monazite sand (3 percent content) and bastnäsite (0.2 percent content). Interestingly, lunar rock samples retrieved by Apollo space missions were found to have a relatively high content of yttrium.

This element is difficult to separate from other rare-earth elements. It is commercially produced by reducing yttrium fluoride with calcium metal, but it can also be produced by other processes. When extracted, it appears as a dark gray powder.

History and etymology

Yttrium was discovered by Finnish chemist, physicist, and mineralogist Johan Gadolin in 1794. He isolated an impure form of its oxide, yttria (Y2O3), from one of the many unusual minerals found in a quarry near Ytterby, a small Swedish village near Vaxholm. Yttrium and yttria were named after this village. In addition, the elements erbium, terbium, and ytterbium were named after the same village.

In 1828, Friedrich Wöhler isolated yttrium by reducing anhydrous yttrium chloride (YCl3) with potassium. In 1843, the Swedish chemist Carl Mosander was able to show that yttria could be divided into the oxides (or earths) of three different elements. "Yttria" was the name used for the chemically most basic oxide, and the others were named erbia and terbia.

Notable characteristics

Yttrium is at the start of the series of transition metals in period 5 of the periodic table and is located between strontium and zirconium. In addition, it lies in group 3 (former group 3B), between scandium and lanthanum.

This rare earth metal is relatively stable in air and chemically resembles the lanthanides. Shavings or turnings of the metal can ignite in air at temperatures exceeding 400 °C. When yttrium is finely divided, it is very unstable in air. The metal has a low neutron cross-section for nuclear capture. The common oxidation state of yttrium is +3.


Natural yttrium is composed of only one isotope, Y-89, which is stable. In addition, many radioactive isotopes have been characterized. The radioactive isotope with the longest half-life is Y-88 (half-life of 106.65 days), followed by Y-91 (half-life of 58.51 days). Nearly all the other isotopes (except Y-87 and Y-90) have half-lives of less than a day. Y-90 exists in equilibrium with its parent isotope strontium-90, which is a product of nuclear explosions.


  • Yttrium barium copper oxide or YBCO (YBa2Cu3O7-δ): It was the first "high-temperature" superconductor found, in the sense that it can operate above 90 K, well above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (which boils at 77 K). Also known as "1-2-3" (to indicate the ratio of the metal constituents), YBCO was developed by researchers at the University of Houston and University of Alabama in 1986-1987. Other high-temperature superconducting materials were discovered in rapid succession, ushering in a new era in materials science and chemistry. Currently, superconducting materials are being used as magnets in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic levitation, and Josephson junctions.
  • Yttrium iron garnet or YIG (Y3Fe2(FeO4)3 or Y3Fe5O12): This synthetic garnet is a ferrimagnetic material with a Curie temperature of 550 K. It is used in microwave, optical, and magneto-optical applications, such as for microwave filters. It is transparent for infrared light (at wavelengths over 600 nm). It also finds use in solid-state lasers.
  • Yttrium(III) oxide or yttria (Y2O3): This air-stable, white substance is the most important yttrium compound. It is especially useful as a starting material for the production of other inorganic compounds of yttrium. For instance, it is widely used to make YVO4 europium and Y2O3 europium phosphors, which give the red color in color TV picture tubes. Yttrium oxide is also used to make yttrium iron garnets, which are very effective microwave filters. In its most important application, Y2O3 is used to make the high-temperature superconductor YBCO (YBa2Cu3O7-δ), mentioned above.


  • Yttrium was the "secret" element used in producing the first high-temperature superconductor known as "YBCO" (yttrium barium copper oxide, YBa2Cu3O7-δ), mentioned above.
  • Yttrium(III) oxide is widely used to make phosphors (YVO4:Eu and Y2O3:Eu) that produce the red coloration in color television picture tubes.
  • Cerium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG:Ce) crystals are used as phosphors to make white light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • Yttrium oxide is also used to make yttrium iron garnet (Y3Fe5O12), which is very effective as a microwave filter and as an acoustic energy transmitter and transducer.
  • Yttrium aluminum garnet (Y3Al5O12) has a hardness of 8.5 and can be used as a gemstone (simulated diamond).
  • Yttrium aluminum garnet, yttrium lithium fluoride, and yttrium vanadate are used in combination with dopants, such as neodymium or erbium, to produce infrared lasers.
  • Small amounts of the element yttrium (0.1 to 0.2 percent) have been used to reduce the grain size of chromium, molybdenum, titanium, and zirconium. It is also used to increase the strength of aluminum and magnesium alloys.
  • Yttrium is used as a catalyst for ethylene polymerization.
  • This metal can be used to deoxidize vanadium and other nonferrous metals.
  • Yttrium is also used in the manufacture of gas mantles for propane lanterns, as a replacement for thorium, which is slightly radioactive.

Potential uses

Yttrium has been studied for possible use as a nodulizer in the production of nodular cast iron, which has increased ductility. Potentially, yttrium can be used in ceramic and glass formulas, since yttrium oxide has a high melting point and imparts shock resistance and low thermal expansion characteristics to glass.


Compounds that contain this element are rarely encountered by most people and their toxicity is unclear. This element is not normally found in human tissue and plays no known biological role.

See also

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • “Yttrium,” Los Alamos National Laboratory. Retrieved December 20, 2006.
  • Housecroft, Catherine E. and Alan G. Sharpe. (2005). Inorganic Chemistry, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. ISBN 0130399132
  • Greenwood, N. N.; and A. Earnshaw. (1998). Chemistry of the Elements, 2nd ed. Oxford, U.K. and Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevier Science. ISBN 0750633654. Online version.

External links

All links retrieved June 4, 2023.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.