Georges Urbain French chemist discovered lutetium element

Georges Urbain – discoverer of lutetium element

Georges Urbain

Biography & contributions

Georges Urbain was a French chemist born on April 12, 1872 – died on November 05, 1938. Urbain was eminent for discovering lutetium periodic table element.

Urbain separated ytterbia into two constituents by applying a series of fractional crystallizations of ytterbium nitrate from nitric acid solution and obtained two rare earth oxides. One element was coined as ytterbium while the other he termed as lutecium which was later changed to lutetium. Georges Urbain successfully separated lutetium from ytterbia in 1907.

However, Urbain's 1907 samples only contained traces of lutetium. This later misled George Urbain, that he had discovered element 72, which he named celtium, which was actually very pure lutetium.

Facts about Lutetium

Lutetium is belongs to lanthanide series rare earth periodic table element and having symbol Lu, atomic number 71, atomic mass 175 g/mol, electron configuration [Xe] 6s2 4f14 5d1, density 9.841 g/cm3,melting point 1652 °C, boiling point 3402 °C.

Lutetium's compounds always contain the element in the oxidation state +3. Lutetium dissolves readily in weak acids and dilutes sulfuric acid to form solutions containing the colorless lutetium ions.

Lutetium is separated by ion exchange. In this process, rare-earth ions are sorbed onto suitable ion-exchange resin by exchange with hydrogen, ammonium or cupric ions present in the resin. Lutetium salts are then selectively washed out by suitable complexing agent. Lutetium metal is then obtained by reduction of anhydrous LuCl3 or LuF3 by either an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal.

When considering physical form of lutetium, it is silvery white metal and stable in air. Lutetium usually occurs in association with the element yttrium and is sometimes used in metal alloys and as a catalyst in various chemical reactions. The lutetium atom is the smallest among the lanthanide atoms, due to the lanthanide contraction. Lutetium metal is known to react with the four lightest halogens to form trihalides. The principal commercially viable ore of lutetium is the rare earth phosphate mineral monazite.

Lutetium is very expensive to obtain on useful quantities and therefore it has very few commercial uses. One commercial application has been as a pure beta emitter, using lutetium which has been exposed to neutron activation. A tiny amount of lutetium is added as a dopant to gadolinium gallim garnet (GGG), which is used in magnetic bubble memory devices.

Lutetium aluminium garnet has been proposed for use as a lens material in high refractive index immersion lithography. Lutetium tantalate is the densest known stable white material and therefore is an ideal host for X-ray phosphors

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