Most common household items today were made possible through the combination of many, many different elements. Though it’s not one you’ve probably heard of often, yttrium is an integral part of some of your favorite gadgets.
In Good Company
Yttrium belongs to the same group as some more well-known metals, like silver and iron. These transition metals are known for being quite strong while also maintaining quite a bit of pliability, making them incredibly useful in all sorts of manufacturing and technical applications.
Most commonly, yttrium will be used as part of a compound to enhance the properties of a different element, rather than to enhance its own.
Yttrium was first discovered in 1787 when a Swedish man stumbled across an unusual black rock, and took it to a mineralogist to be studied. It was eventually found to contain yttrium, which was named so after a Swedish town. Today, most yttrium is found in minerals in Asian countries.
From Radar to Lasers
Being that it is so abundant and so versatile, yttrium is important to dozens of different fields. It can be combined with aluminum and magnesium to create stronger alloys for all sorts of electronics or solar energy applications.
Yttrium oxide is also used to make the strong, heat resistant glass of camera lenses (and other glasses like them), and one of its combinations can be used as a laser that cuts through metals with ease.
Historically, yttrium was (and is) important to the development of radar technology, as well as assisting with the creation of color television as it produces a red pigment.
Yttrium proves that sometimes the elements you don’t notice are the ones working hardest for you behind the scenes.