Yttrium is a transition metal. Transition metals are those elements in Groups 3 through 12 of the periodic table. The periodic table is a chart that shows how chemical elements are related to each other. The element above yttrium in the periodic table is scandium. The space below yttrium is taken up by a group of elements known as the rare earth elements. Scandium, yttrium, and the rare earth elements are often found together in nature. (Continue reading from Chemistry Explained)
In 1787, Karl Arrhenius came across an unusual black rock in an old quarry at Ytterby, near Stockholm. He thought he had found a new tungsten mineral, and passed the specimen over to Johan Gadolin based in Finland. In 1794, Gadolin announced that it contained a new 'earth' which made up 38 per cent of its weight. It was called an’ earth’ because it was yttrium oxide, Y2O3, which could not be reduced further by heating with charcoal.
The metal itself was first isolated in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler and made by reacting yttrium chloride with potassium. Yet, yttrium was still hiding other elements.
In 1843, Carl Mosander investigated yttrium oxide more thoroughly and found that it consisted of three oxides: yttrium oxide, which was white; terbium oxide, which was yellow; and erbium oxide, which was rose-coloured. (Continue reading from Royal Society of Chemistry)
Yttrium is also one of the rare-earth elements. Despite their name, rare-earth elements are rather plentiful around the world. The 17 rare-earth elements include yttrium, scandium and 15 lanthanides (the metallic elements with atomic numbers 57 through 71). They have become indispensible in the manufacturing of cell phones and other technology.
However, yttrium is seldom used on its own. Instead, researchers use it to form compounds, such as yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) — which helped usher in a new phase of high-temperature superconductivity research. Yttrium is also added to metal alloys to help improve resistance to corrosion and oxidation. (Continue reading from Live Science)