Facts About Holmium

Atomic Number: 67 Atomic Symbol: Ho Atomic Weight: 164.93032 Melting Point: 2,685 F (1,474 C) Boiling Point: 4,892 F (2,700 C)

Word origin: Holmium is derived from the Latin word Holmia, meaning Stockholm.

Discovery: Swiss chemists Marc Delafontaine and Jacques-Louis Soret documented the special absorption bands of holmium in 1878, declaring it "Element X." Per Teodor Cleve later independently discovered the element while working on erbia earth, and the element is named after his native city. The yellow oxide holmia was prepared by Otto Homberg in 1911.

A small chunk of ultrapure holmium, 1.5 by 2.5 cm, weighs 17 grams. (Image credit: Images of elements)

Properties of holmium

Like all lanthanides or rare earth metals, holmium has a metallic silver sheen and is fairly soft and malleable. While it is stable in dry air at room temperature it rapidly oxidizes in moist air and at elevated temperatures. Like other rare earths, holmium seems to have a low acute toxic rating. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

Sources of holmium

Holmium occurs in gadolinite, monazite, and in other rare earth minerals. It is commercially abstracted from monazite and occurs in that mineral at a rate of about 0.05 percent. Reduction of its anhydrous chloride or fluoride with calcium metal is the process to isolate the metal.

Uses of holmium

There are no commercial uses for holmium, but its magnetic properties could hold promise for future applications.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Live Science Staff
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