Thulium: the essentials

Thulium is the least abundant of the earth elements, and is about as rare as silver, gold, or cadmium.

The pure metal has a bright, silvery lustre. It is reasonably stable in air, but the metal must be protected from moisture. The element is silvery-grey, soft, malleable, and ductile, and can be cut with a knife. It is a rare earth metal found in minerals such as monazite.

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Thulium: historical information

Thulium was discovered by Per Theodore Cleve in 1879 at Sweden. Origin of name: named after ""Thule", an ancient name for Scandinavia.

Per Theodor Cleve of Sweden discovered holmium in 1879 while working on erbia earth (erbium oxide). Thulium oxide (holmia) was present as an impurity in the erbia. The element is named after Thule, the ancient name for Scandinavia.

Thulium around us Read more »

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

Thulium is never found in nature as the free element. Thulium 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 thulium 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 450 50 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 thulium is: hcp (hexagonal close-packed).

Thulium: orbital properties Read more »

Thulium atoms have 69 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Thulium is [Xe].4f13.6s2 and the term symbol of Thulium is 2F7/2.


Isolation: thulium 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 thulium is available through the reduction of TmF3 with calcium metal.

2TmF3 + 3Ca → 2Tm + 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.

Thulium isotopes Read more »

Table. Stables isotopes of thulium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
169Tm 168.934212 (4) 100 1/2 -0.2316

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