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What is Lutetium?

All the elements discovered so far are arranged in the Modern periodic table according to their atomic number (Z). The element with atomic number 71 is known as Lutetium. Its symbol is Lu. It belongs to the Lanthanide series of the f-block of the periodic table which consists of elements from atomic number 57 to 71. The electronic configuration of lutetium is 4f145d16s2 . It is not found in a pure state in nature but is obtained from its chloride through a reduction process by alkaline metals. Lutetium 177 is a radioactive isotope of Lutetium. Lutetium is a rare earth metal.

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Chemical Properties of Lutetium

The general chemical properties of Lanthanides are as follows-

  • The earlier members are quite reactive but with increasing, atomic number elements become less reactive.

  • Lanthanides react with hydrogen when slightly heated.

  • Carbides are formed when metals are heated with carbon.

  • They release hydrogen gas in reaction with acids.

  • They react with halogens to form halides. Lutetium forms trihalides.

  • They react with oxygen to give oxides. Lutetium can burn up to 150-degree Celcius to yield its oxide.

  • The oxidation states of Lu are +2 and +3.

  • Their hydroxides are alkaline just like alkaline earth metals.

Physical Properties of Lutetium

The general physical properties of Lanthanide elements are -

  • Lanthanides are silvery-white soft metals. Lutetium is also shiny white but is a solid and a hard metal.

  • The hardness of the metals in the lanthanide series increases with an increase in atomic number thus Lutetium is a very hard metal.

  • The melting point and boiling point of lanthanides are generally very high. Lutetium also has a very high melting point. Its reaction with oxygen takes place at a very high temperature.

  • The density of Lutetium is also very high and thus it is a dense metal. The density of lanthanoids changes smoothly except for Yb and Eu.

  • Colour is shown by many lanthanide ions. The colour is due to the unpaired electrons in their f orbitals. However, Lu+3 does not show any colour.

  • Paramagnetism is observed in lanthanide ions. However, Lu+3 does not show paramagnetism as it has 14 electrons in its f orbital (f14).

  • Lutetium has a very low value of third ionization enthalpy. It's due to the stability of empty/half-filled orbitals.

  • The atomic mass of Lutetium is 175.

  • Lutetium is a stable metal.

  • Lutetium is also malleable and ductile.

Certain Facts About Lutetium

  • Lutetium was discovered by George Ubain in 1907.

  • Lutetium is a toxic metal. 

  • It explodes on heating so special care is taken when Lutetium is heated to carry out any reaction.

  • It causes various skin disorders if come in contact with the skin.

  • Lutetium 177 is radioactive and has a half-life of 6.7 days. It emits beta rays.

  • Lutetium was the earlier name of Lutetium. Its name was derived from the old name of Paris(France) which is Lutetia.

  • The atoms of Lu are the smallest of all the Lanthanides.

  • A major use of lanthanide elements is to produce alloy steels which are used for plates and pipe making.

  • Mischmetal is a well-known alloy of lanthanoid metal with iron. The major portion in the alloy is lanthanoid metal and the rest is iron (5%), traces of aluminium, calcium, carbon, etc.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are the Applications of Lutetium?

Even though Lutetium is a toxic metal it is used for various commercial purposes. It is an expensive metal. 

Some of the applications of Lutetium are-

  • In petroleum industries, Lu is used as the catalyst. A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of any reaction. It's beta radiations are used as catalysts.

  • In medicine, Lu is used in the treatment of tumours. To treat cancers of the stomach, pancreas, etc Lutetium 177 is used. The metals bind to the cancer cells and destroy them. 

  • Lutetium is also used in LED bulbs.

  • In various chemical processes like hydrogenation and polymerization Lutetium is used.

  • In various drug formulations, Lutetium 177 is used.

Q2. What is Lanthanoid Contraction?

In the lanthanide series, a decrease in the atomic and ionic radius is observed when one moves from Lanthanum to Lutetium. This decrease is referred to as Lanthanoid contraction. The reason for lanthanide contraction is the imperfect shielding of 4f electrons. The size of the elements decreases as the atomic number of the element increases. It is due to this Lanthanoid contraction Zirconium (Zr) 160pm and Hafnium (Hf) 159pm has almost the same size. They exist in nature together and so it becomes difficult to separate them.