Lars Fredrik Nilson – discoverer scandium element

Lars Fredrik Nilson – discoverer of scandium element

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst, Worldofchemicals.com

Biography & contributions

Lars Fredrik Nilson was a Swedish chemist born on May 27, 1840 – died on May 14, 1899. Nilson was eminent for discovering scandium periodic table element and determining the valence of various metals through studies on gas density of metals.

Nilson was studying the rare earth elements, attempting to isolate ytterbium from the minerals euxenite and gadolinite. Part of Nilson’s method required the preparation of erbia (erbium oxide) from the minerals, which was then reacted to form erbium nitrate. He applied heat to the nitrate and found that his sample contained small quantities of an unknown element with a low atomic weight.

Spectral analysis showed 30 unique spectral lines, proving the existence of the new element. Nilson named the element scandium after the Latin word ‘Scanda’ meaning Scandinavia.He studied scandium and determined its atomic weight was 44.

Facts about scandium


Scandium transition element with symbol Sc, atomic number 21,atomic mass 45 g/mol, electron configuration [Ar] 3d1 4s2,melting point 1541 °C, boiling point 2836 °C. Scandium’s existence include it is not found free in nature but is found combined in minute amounts in over 800 minerals. One of the few minerals having notable scandium content is thortveitite. But occurrences are rarely large enough to be exploited as an ore. Other rare minerals have scandium, bazzite, kolbeckite, ixiolite-Sc, perrierite-Sc, and magbasite. Norway, Madagascar, and the United States have thortveitite which contains from 44 to 48% scandium oxide (ScO2).

Scandium is a soft, silvery-white metallic element with an atomic number 21. It easily oxidizes and tarnishes to pink or yellow. When placed in water, a chemical reaction occurs which releases hydrogen. Scandium has some characteristics that are similar to the rare earth elements, and is often classified as a member of the group. The smaller size of its ion allows it to react chemically more like aluminum, magnesium and zirconium.

It is susceptible to weathering and dissolves slowly in most dilute acids. It does not react with a 1:1 mixture of nitric acid (HNO3) and 48% hydrofluoric acid (HF). Scandium will gradually accumulate in soils and water soils and this will eventually lead to increasing concentrations in humans, animals and soil particles. Scandium has 13 isotopes whose half-lives are known, with mass numbers 40 to 52.Naturally occurring scandium consists of its one stable isotope 45Sc.

Scandium is used in aluminum-scandium alloys for aerospace industry components and for sports equipment such as bicycle frames, fishing rods, golf iron shafts and baseball bats. Scandium iodide is used in mercury vapor lamps, which are used to replicate sunlight in studios for the film and television industry. Scandium oxide (scandia), is used to make high intensity “stadium” lights. Scandium is used in mercury vapor lamps to create a light that is very much like natural sunlight. Scandium is used in sports equipment such as golf iron shafts, baseball bats, bicycle frames and fishing rods.

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