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69 erbiumthuliumytterbium


Name, Symbol, Number thulium, Tm, 69
Chemical series lanthanides
Group, Period, Block n/a, 6, f
Appearance silvery gray
Standard atomic weight 168.93421(2)  g·mol−1
Electron configuration [Xe] 4f13 6s2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 31, 8, 2
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 9.32  g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 8.56  g·cm−3
Melting point 1818 K
(1545 °C, 2813 °F)
Boiling point 2223 K
(1950 °C, 3542 °F)
Heat of fusion 16.84  kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 247  kJ·mol−1
Heat capacity (25 °C) 27.03  J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P(Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T(K) 1117 1235 1381 1570 (1821) (2217)
Atomic properties
Crystal structure hexagonal
Oxidation states 3
(basic oxide)
Electronegativity 1.25 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
1st:  596.7  kJ·mol−1
2nd:  1160  kJ·mol−1
3rd:  2285  kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 175  pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 222  pm
Magnetic ordering no data
Electrical resistivity (r.t.) (poly) 676 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 16.9  W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (r.t.) (poly)
13.3 µm/(m·K)
Young's modulus 74.0  GPa
Shear modulus 30.5  GPa
Bulk modulus 44.5  GPa
Poisson ratio 0.213
Vickers hardness 520  MPa
Brinell hardness 471  MPa
CAS registry number 7440-30-4
Selected isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of thulium
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
167Tm syn 9.25 d ε 0.748 167Er
168Tm syn 93.1 d ε 1.679 168Er
169Tm 100% Tm is stable with 100 neutrons
170Tm syn 128.6 d β- 0.968 170Yb
171Tm syn 1.92 y β- 0.096 171Yb

Thulium (pronounced /ˈθjuːliəm/) is a chemical element that has the symbol Tm and atomic number 69. A lanthanide element, thulium is the least abundant of the rare earths. It is an easily workable metal with a bright silvery-gray luster and can be cut by a knife. It has some corrosion resistance in dry air and good ductility. Naturally occurring thulium is made entirely of the stable isotope Tm-169.



Thulium has been used to create laser light but high production costs have prevented other commercial uses from being developed. Other applications, real and potential:

  • When stable, thulium (Tm-169) is bombarded in a nuclear reactor it can later serve as a radiation source in portable x-ray devices.
  • The unstable isotope Tm-171 could possibly be used as an energy source.
  • Tm-169 has potential use in ceramic magnetic materials called ferrites, which are used in microwave equipment.


Thulium was discovered by Swedish chemist Per Teodor Cleve in 1879 by looking for impurities in the oxides of other rare earth elements (this was the same method Carl Gustaf Mosander earlier used to discover some other rare earth elements). Cleve started by removing all of the known contaminants of erbia (Er2O3) and upon additional processing, obtained two new substances; one brown and one green. The brown substance turned out to be the oxide of the element holmium and was named holmia by Cleve and the green substance was the oxide of an unknown element. Cleve named the oxide thulia and its element thulium after Thule, Scandinavia.

Thulium was so rare that none of the early workers had enough of it to purify sufficiently to actually see the green color; they had to be content with observing the strengthening of the two characteristic absorption bands, as erbium was progressively removed. The first researcher to obtain thulium nearly pure was the British expatriate working on a large scale at New Hampshire College in Durham NH: Charles James. In 1911, he reported his results, having used his discovered method of bromate fractional crystallization to do the purification. He famously needed 15,000 "operations" to establish that the material was homogeneous.[1]


The element is never found in nature in pure form, but it is found in small quantities in minerals with other rare earths. It is principally extracted from monazite (~0.007% thulium) ores found in river sands through ion-exchange. Newer ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques have led to easier separation of the rare earths, which has yielded much lower costs for thulium production. The principal source today are the ion adsorption clays of southern China. In the versions of these, where about two-thirds of the total rare earth content is yttrium, thulium is about 0.5% (or about tied with lutetium for rarity). The metal can be isolated through reduction of its oxide with lanthanum metal or by calcium reduction in a closed container. None of thulium's compounds are commercially important.


Main article: isotopes of thulium

Naturally occurring thulium is composed of 1 stable isotope, Tm-169 (100% natural abundance). 31 radioisotopes have been characterized, with the most stable being Tm-171 with a half-life of 1.92 years, Tm-170 with a half-life of 128.6 days, Tm-168 with a half-life of 93.1 days, and Tm-167 with a half-life of 9.25 days. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lifes that are less than 64 hours, and the majority of these have half lifes that are less than 2 minutes. This element also has 14 meta states, with the most stable being Tm-164m (t½ 5.1 minutes), Tm-160m (t½ 74.5 seconds) and Tm-155m (t½ 45 seconds).

The isotopes of thulium range in atomic weight from 145.966 u (Tm-146) to 176.949 u (Tm-177). The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, Tm-169, is electron capture, and the primary mode after is beta emission. The primary decay products before Tm-169 are element 68 (erbium) isotopes, and the primary products after are element 70 (ytterbium) isotopes.


Thulium has a low-to-moderate acute toxic rating and should be handled with care. Metallic thulium in dust form presents a fire and explosion hazard.


Thulium is used as intersteller money in the book Illegal Aliens (authors Nick Polotta and Phil Foglio), due to its rarity and lack of other uses.

See also


  1. ^ James, Charles (1911). "Thulium I". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 33 (8): 1332-1344.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory's Chemistry Division: Periodic Table – Thulium
  • Guide to the Elements – Revised Edition, Albert Stwertka, (Oxford University Press; 1998) ISBN 0-19-508083-1
  • It's Elemental – Thulium
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Thulium". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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