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Chemical Fact Sheet

Thulium

Chemical Abstract Number (CAS #) 7440-30-4
Analytical Methods 200.8 - 6020
Atomic Symbol Tm

Synopsis from the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 92nd Edition 2011-2013

Thulium (Thule, the earliest name for Scandinavia), Tm; at. wt. 168.93421(2); at. no. 69; m.p. 1545 C; b.p. 1950 C; sp. gr. 9.321 (25 C); valence 3. Discovered in 1879 by Cleve. Thulium occurs in small quantities along with other rare earths in a number of minerals. It is obtained commercially from monazite, which contains about 0.007% of the element. Thulium is the least abundant of the rare-earth elements, but with new sources recently discovered, it is now considered to be about as rare as silver, gold, or cadmium. Ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques have recently permitted much easier separation of the rare earths, with much lower costs. Only a few years ago, thulium metal was not obtainable at any cost; in 1996 the oxide cost $20/g. Thulium metal powder now costs $70/g (99.9%). Thulium can be isolated by reduction of the oxide with lanthanum metal or by calcium reduction of the anhydrous fluoride. The pure metal has a bright, silvery luster. It is reasonably stable in air, but the metal should be protected from moisture in a closed container. The element is silver-gray, soft, malleable, and ductile, and can be cut with a knife. Forty-one isotopes and isomers are known, with atomic masses ranging from 146 to 176. Natural thulium, which is 100% 169Tm, is stable. Because of the relatively high price of the metal, thulium has not yet found many practical applications. 169Tm bombarded in a nuclear reactor can be used as a radiation source in portable X-ray equipment. 171Tm is potentially useful as an energy source. Natural thulium also has possible use in ferrites (ceramic magnetic materials) used in microwave equipment. As with other lanthanides, thulium has a low-to-moderate acute toxicity rating. It should be handled with care.


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