An Overview about the Chemical Element Dysprosium


Symbol: Dy

Atomic Number: 66

Atomic Mass: 162.5 amu (atomic mass units)

Melting Point: 1412.0 C (1685.15 K, 2573.6 F)

Boiling Point: 2562.0 C (2835.15 K, 4643.6 F)

Number of Protons: 66

Number of Electrons: 66

Number of Neutrons: 97

Classification: Rare Earth Metal

Crystal Structure: Hexagonal

Density @ 293 K: 8.536 grams per cubic centimeter

Color: Silver

Dysprosium was first identified as a contaminant in a sample of erbium oxide known as erbia. This was done by the French chemist Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1886. The element was isolated in an impure form in 1906 by another French chemist called Georges Urbain. Pure samples of the metal and its oxide were not prepared until the 1950s. The name dysprosium comes from the Greek “dysprositos” which translates as “hard to obtain” or “hard to get at”.

The element is a rare earth metal in the lanthanide or lanthanoid series of the periodic table. It has a silver metallic luster. The pure metal is soft enough to be cut with a knife. Dysprosium is fairly stable in air but can be dissolved in both dilute and concentrated acids with the production of hydrogen.

There are seven naturally occurring stable isotopes of the element. The most common isotope which makes up 28.18 % of the total abundance is dysprosium-164. The other stable isotopes are dysprosium-162 (25.51%), dysprosium-163 (24.9%), dysprosium-161 (18.91%), dysprosium-160 (2.34%), dysprosium-158 (0.1%) and dysprosium-156 (0.06%). A number of unstable isotopes of dysprosium have been produced. They have atomic masses ranging from 139 to 173.

There are a number of mineral ores that contain dysprosium these include xenotime, gadolinite and polycrase. It is most commonly extracted from the minerals monazite and bastnasite. Monazite also contains the toxic radioactive element thorium so caution should be taken when processing this mineral for rare earth elements. Dysprosium and the other rare earth elements are extracted from their mineral ores using ion-exchange chromatography, solvent extractions and metallographic reduction methods.

Dysprosium has very few uses and its properties are affected by very small amounts of contamination.

* Dysprosium oxide-nickel cement is used in the cooling of the rods of nuclear reactors. It will absorb neutrons without swelling or contracting even under prolonged neutron bombardment.

* With the element vanadium it is used to make materials for the laser industry.

* Dysprosium-cadmium chalcogenides are a source of infra red radiation that is used in the study of some chemical reactions.