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An Introduction to Dysprosium or Dy Element

Below the main body of the periodic table are two rows of elements. These are the lanthanides and the actinides. If you consider the atomic numbers of the elements, you will notice they fit in the areas below scandium and yttrium. The reason they don't seem to be (usually) listed here is that this could make the table too wide to print on paper. Each of these rows of elements has characteristic properties.

Lanthanides are the rare-earth element elements of the modern periodic table i.e. the elements with atomic numbers from fifty-eight to seventy-one following the element lanthanum. Dysprosium (Dy) is a chemical element, a rare-earth metal of the lanthanide series of the periodic table.

What is Dysprosium?

Dysprosium is the 66th element within the periodic table. The Dysprosium symbol is Dy within the periodic table. Dysprosium is a lustrous, soft, and silvery metal. It's stable in air at room temperature even though it's slowly oxidised by oxygen. It reacts with cold water and quickly dissolves in acids. It forms many brightly coloured salts. Dysprosium's characteristics are often strongly affected by the presence of impurities.



History of Dysprosium

Dysprosium was discovered in 1886 by Paul-Émile Lecoq De Boisbaudran in Paris. Its discovery came as a result of analysis into yttrium oxide, first made in 1794, and from that other rare earth (aka lanthanoids) were afterward to be extracted, specifically erbium in 1843, then holmium in 1878, and at last dysprosium. De Boisbaudran’s technique involved endless precipitation applied on the marble slab of his fireplace at home.

Pure samples of dysprosium weren't available till Frank Spedding and colleagues at Iowa State University developed the technique of ion-exchange chromatography around 1950. From then on, it was attainable to separate the rare-earth element elements in a reliable and efficient manner, though that technique of separation has currently been superseded by liquid-liquid exchange technology.

Dysprosium Electron Configuration

Generally, lanthanides and actinides have electron configurations that follow the Aufbau rule. There are some exceptions in a few of the lanthanide and actinide elements.

The electronic configuration of the lanthanoids is 4f1-14 5d0-1 6s2.

Dy (Dysprosium) is an element with position number sixty-six within the periodic table.

Reduced electronic configuration Dy:

[Xe] 4f10 6s2

Chemical Properties of Dysprosium

In common with several alternative lanthanides, dysprosium is found within the minerals monazite and bastnasite. It's additionally found in smaller quantities in many alternative minerals like xenotime and fergusonite.

It may be extracted from these minerals by solvent extraction or ion exchange. It can also be prepared by the reduction of Dy trifluoride with Ca metal. It seems like silvery, lustrous, and soft metal.

The Chemical Properties of Dysprosium are as Follows:

  • The element possesses wonderful stability at room temperature and often gets oxidised in the presence of oxygen.

  • This metal has about twenty-nine isotopes of mass numbers between 141 to 169. The number of naturally occurring isotopes for Dy is approximately seven, and all are better known to be stable isotopes.

  • The earth’s crust consists of about 5.2 mg/kg and also the concentration of dysprosium in seawater is about 0.9 mg/L.

  • The worldwide production of dysprosium (Dy) is around 100 tonnes and approx 99% of this can be created by artificial means in China.

Uses of Dysprosium

  • Being a radioactive element, the metal finds useful applications within the field of radioactivity.

  • Dysprosium is used in control rods in reactors of nuclear energy plants as they have the potential to absorb neutrons.

  • Metal bromide and iodide are used for high-intensity lamps.

  • Since the magnetic susceptibility is high, it's utilised in the applications of the data storage system.

  • The salts of dysprosium like aluminium garnet and iron garnet are used in adiabatic refrigerators.

Dysprosium Oxide and Dysprosium Nitrate

Dysprosium oxide with chemical composition Dy2O3, is one of the rare-earth element oxide families. It is a white slightly hygroscopic powder, and it's highly insoluble and thermally stable.

Dysprosium Nitrate could be a salt of dysprosium and nitric acid with the formula Dy(NO3)3.

When dysprosium oxide is dissolved in water it forms a crystalline hydrate of yellow colour.

Interesting Facts

  • Dysprosium is one of the most abundant lanthanide elements and is over twice as abundant as tin. Dysprosium(Dy) is rarely encountered as a free element however is found in several minerals.

  • Dysprosium has no biological role. Soluble dysprosium salts are gently toxic by consumption, whereas insoluble salts are non-toxic. From toxicity tests on mice, it had been calculated that a dose of five hundred grams or more would be required to put human life in danger.


The dysprosium (Dy) element was discovered by a French chemist named Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in the year 1886. This element with the symbol Dy is abundantly found in nature and even found in several minerals like gadolinite, xenotime, euxenite, fergusonite, and polycrase, which might even be known as sources of dysprosium.

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FAQs on Dysprosium

1.  What are the toxic effects of dysprosium?

When mixed with air as an ignition source, dysprosium powder may cause an explosion. Sparks or static electricity can even ignite thin foils of this substance. Water cannot extinguish a dysprosium fire because it reacts slowly to water. However, water may be used to extinguish fires caused by dysprosium chloride. Dysprosium halide and oxide are not combustible in nature. Dysprosium nitrate could be a sturdy oxidising agent that simply ignites once it comes into contact with organic materials. Soluble dysprosium salts like dysprosium chloride and dysprosium nitrate are gently toxic.

2. How can dysprosium be extracted?

Dysprosium is primarily obtained from monazite sand, which may be a phosphate mixture. The material is obtained as a byproduct of nuclear reaction and commercial yttrium extraction. Most unwanted metals can be excluded magnetically or through a flotation process once isolating Dy. Liquid-liquid extraction or ion exchange strategies are employed in the industrial separation of Dy from its ores. The metal is produced through the metallothermic reduction of anhydrous halides with alkali or alkaline-earth metals. The resulting Dy ions will then react with either F or Cl to create fluorides and chlorides. These compounds can be reduced using either Ca or Li metals.  

3. Does the human body use dysprosium and where is it found?

Dy has no biological role. Dy is primarily obtained from bastnasite and monazite, where it occurs as an impurity. Alternative dysprosium-bearing minerals include euxenite, fergusonite, gadolinite, and polycrase. It's mined in the USA, China, Russia, Australia, and India. Like most metals, Dy may be a reactive, silvery-white metal that's soft enough to chop with a knife. Dy is used in control rods for nuclear reactors as a result of its relatively high neutron-absorption cross-section; its compounds are used for creating laser materials and phosphor activators, and in metal salt lamps.