Lutetium: the essentials

Pure metallic lutetium has been isolated only in recent years and is one of the more difficult to prepare. It can be prepared by the reduction of anhydrous LuCl3 or LuF3 by an alkali or alkaline earth metal.

The metal is silvery white and relatively stable in air. It is a rare earth metal and perhaps the most expensive of all rare elements. It is found in small amounts with all rare earth metals, and is very difficult to separate from other rare elements.

This sample is from The Elements Collection, an attractive and safely packaged collection of the 92 naturally occurring elements that is available for sale.

Lutetium: historical information

Lutetium was discovered by Georges Urbain and Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1907 at France, Germany. Origin of name: from the Greek word "Lutetia" meaning "Paris".

In 1907, Georges Urbain described a process by which Marignac's ytterbium (1879) could be separated into the two elements, ytterbium (neoytterbium) and lutetium. These elements were identical with "aldebaranium" and "cassiopeium", independently discovered by von Welsbach at about the same time.

Lutetium around us Read more »

Lutetium has no biological role but is said to stimulate the metabolism.

Lutetium is never found in nature as the free element. Lutetium is found in the ores monazite sand [(Ce, La, etc.)PO4] and bastn°site [(Ce, La, etc.)(CO3)F], ores containing small amounts of all the rare earth metals. It is difficult to separate from other rare earth elements.

Abundances for lutetium in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 0.1 0.001 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 560 70 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human (no data) ppb by weight (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of lutetium is: hcp (hexagonal close-packed).

Lutetium: orbital properties Read more »

Lutetium atoms have 71 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Lutetium is [Xe].4f14.5d1.6s2 and the term symbol of Lutetium is 2D3/2.


Isolation: lutetium metal is available commercially so it is not normally necessary to make it in the laboratory, which is just as well as it is difficult to isolate as the pure metal. This is largely because of the way it is found in nature. The lanthanoids are found in nature in a number of minerals. The most important are xenotime, monazite, and bastnaesite. The first two are orthophosphate minerals LnPO4 (Ln deonotes a mixture of all the lanthanoids except promethium which is vanishingly rare) and the third is a fluoride carbonate LnCO3F. Lanthanoids with even atomic numbers are more common. The most comon lanthanoids in these minerals are, in order, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, and praseodymium. Monazite also contains thorium and ytrrium which makes handling difficult since thorium and its decomposition products are radioactive.

For many purposes it is not particularly necessary to separate the metals, but if separation into individual metals is required, the process is complex. Initially, the metals are extracted as salts from the ores by extraction with sulphuric acid (H2SO4), hydrochloric acid (HCl), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Modern purification techniques for these lanthanoid salt mixtures are ingenious and involve selective complexation techniques, solvent extractions, and ion exchange chromatography.

Pure lutetium is available through the reduction of LuF3 with calcium metal.

2LuF3 + 3Ca → 2Lu + 3CaF2

This would work for the other calcium halides as well but the product CaF2 is easier to handle under the reaction conditions (heat to 50°C above the melting point of the element in an argon atmosphere). Excess calcium is removed from the reaction mixture under vacuum.

Lutetium isotopes Read more »

Lutetium is generally considered to have two stable isotopes, although strictly speaking Lu-176 is not entirely stable with a half-life of 3.78 x 1010 years. Lu-175 can be used as a yield tracer in the ICP-MS based determination of Pu in urine. Lu-176 is used for the production of radioactive Lu-177 which is a very promising radio-immunotherapy isotope for the treatment of small, soft tumors. >.

Table. Stables isotopes of lutetium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
175Lu 174.940770 (3) 97.41 (2) 7/2 2.2327
176Lu 175.942679 (3) 2.59 (2) 7 3.19

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