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For color TV tubes.
(Gr. dysprositos, hard to get at) Dysprosium was discovered in 1886 by Lecoq de
Boisbaudran, but not isolated. Neither the oxide nor the metal was available in relatively
pure form until the development of ion-exchange separation and metallographic reduction
techniques by Spedding and associates about 1950. Dysprosium occurs along with other
so-called rare-earth or lanthanide elements in a variety of minerals such as xenotime,
fergusonite, gadolinite, euxenite, polycrase, and blomstrandine. The most important
sources, however, are from monaziate and bastnasite. Dysprosium can be prepared by
reduction of the trifluoride with calcium.
The element has a metallic, bright silver luster. It is relatively stable in air at
room temperature, and is readily attacked and dissolved, with the evolution of hydrogen,
but dilute and concentrated mineral acids. The metal is soft enough to be cut with a knife
and can be machined without sparking if overheating is avoided. Small amounts of
impurities can greatly affect its physical properties.
While dysprosium has not yet found many applications, its thermal neutron absorption
cross-section and high melting point suggest metallurgical uses in nuclear control
applications and for alloying with special stainless steels. A dysprosium oxide-nickel
cermet has found use in cooling nuclear reactor rods. This cermet absorbs neutrons readily
without swelling or contracting under prolonged neutron bombardment. In combination with
vanadium and other rare earths, dysprosium has been used in making laser materials.
Dysprosium-cadmium chalcogenides, as sources of infrared radiation, have been used for
studying chemical reactions.
The cost of dysprosium metal has dropped in recent years since the development of
ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques, and the discovery of large ore bodies. The
metal costs about $300/kg in purities of 99+%.
Sources: CRC Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics and the American Chemical Society.
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