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What is Scandium

Scandium (pronunciation SKAN-dee-em) is a soft, light metal exhibiting a high reactivity with air and water, represented by the chemical symbol Sc [1, 4]. It belongs to the family of transition metals, having thirteen isotopes with mass numbers ranging from 40 to 52 of which only Sc-45 is the most common one [3].

Scandium Symbol

Where Can it be Found in Nature

It does not occur freely in nature, but associated with more than 800 minerals, commonly found in thortveitite, found in Scandinavia, from where it is extracted as a byproduct of uranium mill tailings. It is commercially obtained through electrolysis of molten potassium, scandium chloride, and lithium using tungsten wire and molten zinc as electrodes [1].


Origin of its Name: It’s name is derived from ‘Scandia’, the Latin word for Scandinavia [1].

Who Discovered it: Lars Frederik Nilson, a Swedish chemist

When, Where, and How was it Discovered

In 1869, the Russian chemist, Mendeleev, after witnessing a gap between the atomic weights of calcium and titanium, suspected the existence of an undiscovered element. It was only in 1879 when Nilson at the University of Uppsala, Sweden obtained the element from euxenite in the oxide form. He was sure about the discovery on the basis of the results displayed on the atomic spectrum. Later, the element was named as scandium [1].

Scandium Alloy


Atomic number 21 [1]
CAS number 7440-20-2 [1]
Position in the periodic table [1] Group Period Block
3 4 d

Where is Scandium Found on the Periodic Table

Classification, Properties and Characteristics of Scandium

General Properties

Relative atomic mass 44.956 [1]
Atomic mass/weight 44.956  atomic mass units [4]
Molar mass 44.956 g/mole [10]
Mass number 45

Physical Properties

Color/physical appearance Silver [1]
Odor Undetermined [11]
Melting point/freezing point 1541°C (2806°F) [1]
Boiling point 2836°C (5137°F)  [1]
Density 2.99 g/cm3 [1]
Standard state (normal phase) at room temperature (solid/liquid/gas) Solid [1]
Brinell hardness 750 Mpa [15]

Chemical Properties

Flammability Flammable [11]
Oxidation states (numbers) 3 [1]

Atomic Data of Scandium(Element 21)

Valence electrons 3 [12]
Quantum numbers [13]
– n 3
– ℓ 2
– m -2
– ms +1/2
Electron configuration (noble gas configuration) [Ar] 3d14s2[1]
Atomic structure [4]
– Number of electrons 21
– Number of neutrons 24
– Number of protons 21
Radius of atom
– Atomic radius 2.15 Å [1]
– Covalent radius 1.59 Å [1]
Ion charge +3 [14]
Ionization energy [1]


1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
633.088 1234.99 2388.655 7090.65 8842.88 10679 13315

Scandium Atomic Structure (Bohr Model)

What is Scandium Commonly Used for

  • An alloy of scandium and aluminum is used to make durable frames of baseball bats, bicycle mountain tubings, military fighter jets, pistols and revolver guns, golf shafts, and lacrosse sticks [1].
  • Scandium-46, a radioactive isotope, is used as a tracing agent in oil refineries to track the movement of various fractions, and also in underground pipes for detecting leaks [3].
  • Sc-doped aluminum nitride is used in the designing and fabrication of piezoelectric micro-machined transducers for better accuracy [5].
  • The element has been found to be applicable in jewelry-making.
  • Scandium contacts used in high performance multilayer mos2 transistors have potential electronic applications [6].


Does Scandium Have Any Toxic Effects

Long-term exposure to its vapors may cause lung embolism and other respiratory problems as result of poisoning [7]. If ingested in minute amounts over a period of time, the metal may accumulate in the liver, causing severe health conditions since it has carcinogenic properties [8].

Scandium Pictures

Interesting Facts

  • It was only in 1973 when the pure metal was produced by electrolysis of molten scandium chloride [1].
  • The density of Sc is as low as aluminum, but with a high melting point [1].
  • It is the 36th most abundant element existing in the earth’s crust [9].
  • Scandium Lacrosse Stick

Scandium Price

The cost of the pure metal may vary between $270 and $280 per gram.



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