Yttrium is a transition metal that is a silvery white solid in its natural state. It is relatively stable in the air unless it is in small, fine, amounts. Yttrium has an atomic weight of 88.90585, a melting point of 2779 °F, and a boiling point of 6037 °F. Some common uses of yttrium include: as a component in microwave filters, in jewelry as fake diamonds, as a strengthening component in metal alloys, as a catalyst for ethylene polymerization, and in the form of electrodes on high quality spark plugs.
Yttrium is never found freely in nature, and isolation procedures are needed to extract pure yttrium from the minerals that it is found in.
Yttrium is almost always found in rare-earth minerals; it is also found in uranium ores, monazite sand, and bastnasite. Yttrium isolation for commercial purposes is usually extracted from monazite and bastnasite. Monazite is a phosphate which contains rare earth metals in addition to yttrium; bastnasite is a carbonate fluoride mineral which contains small amounts of yttrium.
One isolation procedure reduces yttrium fluoride with metal calcium; this reaction results in pure yttrium and calcium fluoride. Another isolation procedure involves extracting salts of yttrium metal present in ores by reactions involving sulphuric acid, followed by hydrochloric acid, followed by sodium hydroxide. Some of the additional isolation procedures that are used involve solvent extraction and ion exchange chromatography. The isolation of yttrium from its ores is a procedure which involves a number of highly complex steps; due to the complexity of isolating yttrium, the extraction of yttrium is hardly ever produced on a small scale laboratory basis.
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