Scandium: the essentials

Scandium is a silvery-white metal which develops a slightly yellowish or pinkish cast upon exposure to air. It is relatively soft, and resembles yttrium and the rare-earth metals more than it resembles aluminium or titanium. Scandium reacts rapidly with many acids.

Scandium is apparently a much more abundant element in the sun and certain stars than on earth.

Image adapted with permission from Prof James Marshall's (U. North Texas, USA) Walking Tour of the elements CD.

Scandium: historical information

Scandium was discovered by Lars Fredrik Nilson in 1879 at Sweden. Origin of name: from the Latin word "Scandia" meaning "Scandinavia".

Scandium was discovered by Lars Frederick Nilson (a Scandinavian) in 1876 in the minerals euxenite and gadolinite, which had not yet been found anywhere except in Scandinavia. He and his coworkers were actually looking for rare earth metals. By processing 10 kg of euxenite and other residues of rare-earth minerals, Nilson was able to prepare about 2 g of scandium oxide (scandia, Sc2O3) of high purity.

In 1871 Mendeleev predicted that an element should exist that would resemble boron in its properties. He therefore called it ekaboron, (symbol Eb). Per Theodor Cleve found scandium oxide at about the same time. He noted that the new element was the element ekaboron predicted by Mendeleev in 1871.

Scandium around us Read more »

Scandium has no biological role.

Scandium is never found as the free metal. Scandium is apparently a much more abundant element in the sun and certain stars than on earth. However it is widely distributed being present in very small amounts in nearly a thousand different minerals. The blue colour of beryl (aquamarine variety) is said to be due to scandium. Most scandium is recovered from thortveitite or is extracted as a by-product from uranium production plants.

Abundances for scandium in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 30 1 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 26000 12000 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 scandium is: hcp (hexagonal close-packed).

Scandium: orbital properties Read more »

Scandium atoms have 21 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Scandium is [Ar].3d1.4s2 and the term symbol of Scandium is 2D3/2.


Isolation: preparation of metallic samples of scandium is not normally necessary given that it is commercially avaialable. In practice littel scandium is produced. The mineral thortveitite contains 35-40% Sc2O3 is used to produce scandium metal but another important source is as a byproduct from uranium ore processing, even though these only contain 0.02% Sc2O3.

Scandium isotopes Read more »

Table. Stables isotopes of scandium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
45Sc 44.9559100 (14) 100 7/2 4.756483

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