21Sc Scandium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Lars Fredrik Nilson of Sweden

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named after Scandinavia, scandium is a soft, silvery-white metal. It is reactive and will tarnish to a yellowish or pinkish color in air. If water is run over it, a reaction that releases hydrogen gas will result. Scandium is also very reactive with acids. Scandium is a rare metal on Earth, although it is much more common in the Sun and other stars. The blue color of aquamarine gems is due to the presence of scandium. Scandium has only a very few uses, one of which is to make very bright mercury-vapor lamps that produce light that is remarkably similar to natural sunlight, which is important in the use of color television cameras. Scandium is a light metal, with a very high melting point. Consequently, spacecraft designers have expressed an interest in using it as a building material. It is also used in alkaline batteries. The first pound of pure scandium was not produced until 1960.

Biological Benefits

Scandium has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits in life processes.


Scandium is rare, with only a very small amount of worldwide production per year. It is present in minute quantities in many minerals, notably monazite. However, it is only economical to extract it from uranium ore tailings and from the minerals euxenite, gadolinite and thortveitite. Most scandium not extracted from uranium tailings is mined in Scandinavia, Iceland and Madagascar.