The Magical Periodic Table Element – Dysprosium

The Magical Periodic Table Element - Dysprosium. Element Facts from Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically By The Metal Horn Unicorns By Sybrina Durant

Metals and different elements from the periodic table can all seem magical. Dysprosium seems magical because of its unique properties and applications in various industries. Dysprosium is a rare earth element that belongs to the lanthanide series. It was discovered in 1886 by French chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Dysprosium gets its name from the Greek word “dysprositos,” which means hard to obtain.  

One of the remarkable properties of dysprosium is its high magnetic strength. It has one of the highest magnetic moments of any naturally occurring element, making it an essential component in the production of powerful magnets. These magnets, known as neodymium-dysprosium magnets, are used in a wide range of applications, including electric motors, generators, and even in headphones and speakers.  

Dysprosium is also known for its role in energy-efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use dysprosium as a phosphorescent material to enhance the brightness and color quality of the light produced. This element helps improve the overall efficiency and lifespan of these energy-saving light sources.  

Another fascinating application of dysprosium lies in its ability to absorb and control neutrons. This property makes it a crucial component for nuclear reactors, especially those designed for the production of nuclear energy or isotopes for medical purposes. Dysprosium rods are used to regulate the nuclear reaction and prevent meltdowns.  

Besides its industrial applications, dysprosium also has medical uses. It is utilized in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines as a contrast agent. Dysprosium-based contrast agents enhance the visibility of specific body tissues and improve the accuracy of diagnostic imaging.   Although dysprosium offers various benefits, its limited natural abundance poses challenges in its production and availability.

China is the largest producer and exporter of dysprosium, controlling around 90% of the world’s supply. This dominance has raised concerns about the security of dysprosium supply for other countries heavily reliant on its applications.   To tackle this concern and reduce dependence on China, researchers and scientists are exploring alternative sources and recycling methods to obtain dysprosium. Efforts are being made to extract dysprosium from electronic waste, such as discarded hard drives and speakers, as these often contain small amounts of rare earth elements.  

Scientists are investigating the potential of mining rare earth elements from deep-sea deposits. Deep-sea mining could offer an alternative source of dysprosium and other valuable elements, reducing the environmental impact that comes with traditional mining practices.  

Dysprosium may seem magical because of its unique properties and widespread applications. From powerful magnets to energy-efficient lighting and nuclear reactors, dysprosium plays a vital role in various industries. However, its limited natural abundance and dependence on a single source raise concerns about its availability and supply security. Through research and innovation, efforts are being made to find alternative sources and recycling methods, reducing reliance on China and ensuring a stable supply of dysprosium for the future.  

This article is brought to you by Sybrina Durant, the author of the middle grade picture book, Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically By The Metal Horn Unicorns. Learn More. In that book Dysprosium is presented by the unicorn, Dypsie. Read Dypsie’s Story.

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