The existence of scandium was predicted theoretically by Mendeleyev in 1871. In 1879, Mendeleyev's predictions were verified by finding the new element in the mineral euxenite. Scandium is classed as a rare-earth element and is found in minute amounts in minerals often associated with the lanthanides. But investigators later found it to be widely distributed on the earth and among the stars, including our own sun.

Scandium is a very lightweight, silvery white metal that is fairly soft. Most commercial-grade scandium is obtained from the byproducts of uranium refining operations. A rare Norwegian mineral, thortveitite, contains as much as 34% scandium oxide.

Scandium metal is of interest to the aerospace industries because of the metal's light weight, resistance to corrosion, and high melting point. Some scandium oxide is currently used in the manufacture of high-intensity electric lamps. Scandium iodide, ScI3, is used in lamps that produce light having colour values that closely match those of natural sunlight. Radioactive scandium-46 is sometimes used as a tracer agent in large oil refining operations.

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center