Lutetium can be found on the elemental chart as Lu and the atomic number for this element is 71. It is an extremely hard, dense metal with the highest melting point of all of the lanthanides. You might recognize the rareness of lutetium due to the infrequency of its mention in the workplace or in mainstream media, but investors should take note that this rare element is also extremely expensive. This metals rarity alone makes it an interesting investment choice, but there is a lot more to this element.
Below, you’ll find 10 more interesting facts about lutetium that you probably do not yet know.
1. Lutetium was first discovered by three separate individuals around the same time; however, after years of dispute regarding the discovery, the honor of naming the metal was given to Georges Urbain. Urbain published his findings before the others and somewhat settled the dispute.
2. Lutetium was found in ytterbia, a mineral that had been previously considered to only contain ytterbium. Due to this, lutetium was first viewed as an impurity of ytterbia instead of a separate element belonging to another classification.
3. The original spelling of lutetium was “lutecium”; however, it was changed to the current spelling in 1949.
4. Lutetium only has a couple of different uses, most likely due to the fact that it is such a rare metal. It is used as lutetium-176, which is radioactive and used to determine meteorite age. They are also used as catalysts for refineries to aid in petroleum cracking. It is also used in polymerization applications, alkylation and hydrogenation.
5. Lutetium is never found by itself, always with another rare metal, and it can be extremely difficult to remove from those other metals. The ore containing lutetium that is the most commercially viable is monazite, which is also very rare.
6. The price of lutetium, at the time of this writing, is right around $10,000 for each kilogram. In other words, it is worth roughly one quarter of the price for the same amount of gold.
7. Most rare metals have some form of toxicity associated with them, and lutetium is no different. Although lutetium, itself, is considered to have a fairly low toxicity rating, compounds of lutetium should always be carefully handled. For instance, lutetium dust is considered an explosion and fire hazard.
8. Lutetium possesses 71 electrons, hence its atomic number. Whenever the lutetium atom enters chemical reaction, it loses electrons; namely the single 5d-electron, as well as the two outer electrons.
9. Lutetium is a trivalent metal of silvery-white color and it is corrosion resistant.
10. Lutetium is considered rare due to its lack of abundance in the Earth’s crust. It is estimated that lutetium is present at a rate of 0.5 mg/kg. There are only six regularly mined areas, which are located in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and China. Likely due largely to the rarity of lutetium, at the time of this writing, the current world production rate is roughly 10 tons each year.