What Are Some Common Uses for Scandium?


Quick Answer

The most common uses of scandium are in manufacturing high-intensity lights and in strengthening aluminum alloys. Radioactive isotopes of scandium are used as tracers in refineries for crude oil and other materials.

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Scandium is the 21st element on the periodic table. It is a silvery-white metal present in rare earth and uranium compounds. It occurs in over 800 types of minerals, mostly in trace amounts. Its primary ore is thortveitite, which occurs in Scandinavia and Madagascar. It is lighter in weight than most metals and has a much higher melting point than aluminum. In its elemental form, scandium is nontoxic to humans, but scandium compounds are moderately toxic.

As of June 2015, world production of scandium is about 2 tons annually, primarily in the form of scandium oxide. After converting the scandium oxide to scandium fluoride, refiners use metallic calcium as a reducing agent to produce pure scandium.

Mercury vapor lamps made with scandium iodide are a highly efficient source of light with characteristics similar to natural sunlight. These lamps are used for indoor and nighttime color television. Scandium is also used in laser crystals.

Manufacturers in the aerospace industry use alloys of scandium and aluminum to create minor components. Manufacturers of high-performance sporting equipment use similar alloys in baseball bats, bicycle frames and components, lacrosse sticks, and revolver frames.

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