Dysprosium REE Collection rare earth elemets metals


Despite discovery in a dystopian, dysfunctional home laboratory, the scientific community had no dysphagia that dysprosium was a new element. Dyspnea likely occurred at the sight of four precipitates as the discoverer realized that one was a new “earth.” As the second member of the heavy-group rare-earth elements (HREE), dysprosium has two paired electrons giving it the ability to detect radiation, improve permanent magnets, store digital data, precisely aim lasers, emit sonar pings, or glow in the dark.


  • Dysprosium in Terfenol-D, is used to produce sonar sensors, positioning actuators, active noise and vibration cancellation, seismic waves, and tool machining.
  • Dysprosium phosphide (DyP) is a semiconductor used in laser diodes and high power, high-frequency applications.
  • A dysprosium additive to neodymium-iron-boron magnets increases the operating temperature range for use in hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Dysprosium oxide in a cermet is used in nuclear reactor control rods to control the fission process.
  • Dysprosium-165 is injected into joints in the body to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Dysprosium is used in radiation badges to detect and monitor radiation exposure.
  • Dysprosium is used in coating compact disks (CD) for digital data, music, and video storage.

Interesting Facts

  • Strontium Magnesium Aluminate (MgSrAl10O17) doped with europium and dysprosium is used to make "Kryptonite", a long-persistance phosphorescent material that glows bright green in the dark for up to 12 hours.
  • Dysprosium Arsenide (DyAs) is a crystalline solid used as a semiconductor and in photo optic applications.
  • Dysprosium scandium oxide (DyScO3) is a crystalline solid used in photo optic applications and as a semiconductor.
  • Dysprosium (III) iodide (DyI3) is used as a heat and light stabilizer for nylon fabrics.


Dysprosium was discovered by French chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1886. Working with an impure holmia, Lecoq de Boisbaudran used fractional crystallization to separate the impure holmia using ammonium hydroxide, followed by additional separations using potassium sulfate. After multiple fractionations, four "earths" precipitated in the following order: terbium, dysprosium, holmium, and erbium (Lecoq de Boisbaudran, 1886). Three of the elements had previously been discovered. In discovering dysprosium, Lecoq de Boisbaudran noted that he had very little material to work with and confided in Professor Georges Urbain that most of his fractional crystallizations had been prepared on a marble fireplace slab at his residence in Cognac, France (Urbain, 1912). Dysprosium is named after the Greek word, dusprositos (δυσπροσιτός), meaning difficult to approach or get at, in reference to the painstaking number of fractional crystallizations needed to make the precipitate (Weeks and Leicester, 1968, p. 667).


Dysprosium is a bright silver metallic metal that is relatively stable in air. The metal is soft and ductile and can be cut with a knife. It has a hexagonal close-packed structure, a density of 8.536 gm/cm3, a melting point of 1407 °C, and a boiling point of 2600 °C. Dysprosium oxide, or dysprosia, occurs as a sesquioxide with the formula Dy2O3. The oxide is a light pink-white powder with a melting point of 2340 °C, a specific gravity of 7.81 gm/cm3, and a formula weight of 373.0.

Preparation of Metal

Dysprosium metal is typically prepared by calciothermic reduction of the trihalide, typically DyF3. Although its melting point is similar to Y, Gd, Tb, and Lu, its vapor pressure at the melting point is much higher. This makes purification of Dy, and similar elements Sc, Ho, and Er with high vapor pressures, comparatively easy. Common interstitial impurities which form stable compounds with nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen remain in the residue when the metal is sublimed at 1175 °C at a slow rate (Beaudry and Gschneidner, Jr., 1978). Dysprosium metal is formed when the fluoride preferentially separates from dysprosium fluoride at high-temperature and combines with calcium metal forming calcium fluoride and deposits a high-purity dysprosium metal.


Large resources of dysprosium in xenotime and monazite are available worldwide in ancient and recent placer deposits, uranium ores, and weathered clay deposits (ion-adsorption ore). It occurs in the Earth’s crust at an average concentration of 3 parts per million. Xenotime is enriched in dysprosium oxide and contains 8% to 9% of the rare-earth oxide (REO) content. Monazite-(Ce), which is more abundant in the Earth’s’ crust than xenotime, has dysprosium oxide contents of 0.2% to 0.9% of the REO content. The yttrium-enriched Longnan-type ion-adsorption ore has dysprosium oxide contents in the 6% to 7% range of the REO content, however, the Xunwu-type contains only a trace amount. Minor amounts of dysprosium oxide occur in bastnäsite at the Bayan Obo mine in China with a content of about 0.1%, but bastnäsite from Mountain Pass, California, has only trace amounts. Hard rock monazite-(Nd) in the Lemhi Pass district of Idaho-Montana has an average dysprosium oxide content of 1.49% of the REO distribution (Hedrick, unpublished manuscript). Subeconomic resources of dysprosium occur in apatite-magnetite-bearing rocks, eudialyte-bearing deposits, deposits of niobium-tantalum minerals, non-placer monazite-bearing deposits, sedimentary phosphate deposits, and uranium ores, especially those of the Blind River District near Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, which contain dysprosium in brannerite, monazite, and uraninite. Additional subeconomic resources in Canada are contained in allanite, apatite, and britholite at Eden Lake, Manitoba; allanite and apatite at Hoidas Lake, Saskatchewan; fergusonite and xenotime at Nechalacho (Thor Lake), Northwest Territories; and eudialyte-(Y), mosandrite, and britholite at Kipawa, Quebec. It occurs in various minerals in differing concentrations and occurs in a wide variety of geologic environments, including alkaline granites and intrusives, carbonatites, hydrothermal deposits, laterites, placers, and vein-type deposits (Hedrick, 2010).


Xenotime and monazite is recovered from heavy-mineral sands (specific gravity >2.9) deposits in various parts of the world as a byproduct of mining zircon and titanium-minerals or tin minerals. Heavy mineral sands are recovered by surface placer methods from unconsolidated sands. Many of these deposits are mined using floating dredges which separate the heavy-mineral sands from the lighter weight fraction with an on-board wet mill through a series of wet-gravity equipment that includes screens, hydrocyclones, spirals, and cone concentrators. Consolidated or partially consolidated sand deposits that are too difficult to mine by dredging are mined by dry methods. Ore is stripped by typical earth-moving equipment with bulldozers, scrapers, and loaders or by water jet methods. Ore recovered by these methods is crushed and screened and then processed by the wet mill described above. Wet mill heavy-mineral concentrate is sent to a dry mill for processing to separate the individual heavy-minerals using a combination of scrubbing, drying, screening, electrostatic, electromagnetic, magnetic, and gravity processes. Vein monazite has been mined by hard-rock methods in South Africa and the United States (Hedrick, 2010).

Loparite is mined by underground methods using room and pillar methods. Ore is drilled and blasted and removed from the mine. The ore is then processed by the same hard-rock methods as applied to bastnäsite to make a loparite concentrate with a 0.6% Dy2O3 content. In Kyrgyzstan, synchysite-(Y) with a Dy2O3 content of 4.3% was mined by hard-rock methods from the open-pit Kutessai-II deposit near Aktyuz (Hedrick, Sinha, and Kosynkin, 1997). Argillaceous marine sediments enriched in fossil fish remains at the Melovie deposit in Kazakhstan were previously recovered for their uranium and rare-earth content, including dysprosium. The main source of the world’s dysprosium is the ion-adsorption lateritic clays in the southern provinces of China, primarily Fujian, Guangdong, and Jiangxi, with a lesser number of deposits in Guangxi and Hunan. These deposits are mined by leaching methods (Hedrick, 2010).

Selected dysprosium-bearing minerals

Xenotime Y(PO4)
Ion adsorption lateritic clays Y-enriched lateritic clays
Monazite-(Ce) (Ce,La,Nd,Th)(PO4)
Monazite-(Nd) (Nd,Ce,Pr,Th)(PO4)
Synchysite-(Y) Ca(Y,Ce)(CO3)2F
Eudialyte-(Y) Na4(Ca,Ce)2(Fe2+,Mn,Y)ZrSi8O22(OH,Cl)2
Mosandrite Na2Ca4(REE)(Si2O7)2OF3
Britholite-(Y) Ca2(Y,Ca)3(SiO4,PO4)3(OH,F)
Brannerite (U4+,REE,Th,Ca)(Ti,Fe3+,Nb)2(O,OH)6
Gadolinite-(Y) Y2Fe2+Be2(Si2O10)
Bastnäsite (Ce,La,Nd,Pr)F(CO3)


Beaudry and Bernard J. and Karl A. Gschneidner, Jr., 1978, Preparation and Basic Properties of the Rare Earth Metals: chapter 2 in Handbook of the Physics and Chemistry of Rare Earths-Volume 1:Metals, (Gschneidner, Jr. and Eyring, editors), North-Holland, New York, p. 173-232.

Gschneidner, Karl A. Jr., 2011, The Rare Earth Crisis—The Supply/Demand Situation for 2010-2015: article in Material Matters, Aldrich Chemical Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, v. 6, no. 2, p. 34-35.

Hedrick, James B., Rare earth history: unpublished manuscript, 11 p.

Hedrick, James B., 2010, Rare earths: chapter in Mineral commodity summaries 2010, U.S. Geological Survey, p. 128-129.

Hedrick, James B., 1990, Rare earths—The lanthanides, yttrium, and scandium: chapter in Minerals Yearbook 1990, U.S. Geological Survey, v. 1, p. 903-922.

Hedrick, James B., 1991, Rare earths—The lanthanides, yttrium, and scandium: chapter in Minerals Yearbook 1991, U.S. Geological Survey, v. 1, p. 1211-1237.

Hedrick, James B., Shyama P. Sinha, and Valery D. Kosynkin, 1997, Loparite—a rare-earth ore (Ce,Na,Sr,Ca)(Ti,Nb,Ta,Fe+3)O3: Journal of Alloys and Compounds, v. 250, p. 467-470.

Lecoq de Boisbaudran, Pierre E., 1886, L’homine (ou terre X de M. Soret) contient au moins deux radicaux métalliques [Holmia (an earth X of Mr. Soret) contains at least two metal radicals]: Comptes Rendus, May 3, v. 102, p. 1003-1005.

Urbain, Georges, 1912, Lecoq de Boisbaudran: Chem Ztg, August 15, v. 35, p. 929-933.

Weeks, Mary E., and Henry M. Leicester, 1968, Discovery of the Elements (7th ed.): Easton, Pennsylvania, Journal of Chemical Education, 896 p.

Electrons per shell:
2, 8, 18, 28, 8, 2
Atomic number,
Protons, Electrons:
Number of Neutrons:
Atomic Mass:
162.5 amu
Melting Point:
1407.0 °C
Boiling Point:
2600.0 °C
Density @ 293 K:
8.536 g/cm3
Crystal structure: