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thulium

thulium (thōˈlēəm) [key] [from Thule, an ancient name for Scandinavia], metallic chemical element; symbol Tm; at. no. 69; at. wt. 168.93421; m.p. about 1,545°C; b.p. 1,947°C; sp. gr. 9.3; valence +3. Thulium is a soft, malleable, ductile, lustrous silver-white metal. It is one of the rare-earth metals of the lanthanide series in Group 3 of the periodic table. It does not tarnish rapidly in dry air but should be protected from moisture. It forms compounds with oxygen and the halogens, most of which are light green. The oxide, Tm2O3, is called thulia. Thulium is the least abundant of the rare-earth metals. It is found in the minerals gadolinite and euxenite and in monazite, the chief commercial source. The metal can be obtained by chemical reduction of its compounds. The pure metal and compounds have few commercial uses, but they are often used without purification in combination with the other rare-earth metals and compounds, e.g., in lighter flints and carbon electrodes for arc lighting. Although the only naturally occurring isotope (thulium-169) is stable, there are 15 unstable isotopes. Thulium-170 (half-life about 129 days), prepared by irradiating thulium-169 in a nuclear reactor, emits X rays; it is used in portable X-ray sources. Thulium was discovered in 1879 by P. T. Cleve.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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