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Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology

#mineralmonday : gadolinite-(Y)

#mineralmonday : gadolinite-(Y)

#mineralmonday: your weekly* dose of obscure mineralogy, every Monday** [*not guaranteed; **or possibly Tuesday-Sunday]

What is it? Gadolinite-(Y),Y2FeBe2Si2O10

Gadolinite: From Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, via wikimedia.org

What’s it made of?: It’s a silicate (a mineral containing silicon (Si) and oxygen (O)) also containing yttrium (Y), beryllium (Be) and iron (Fe). Yttrium is a rare earth element – somewhat of a misnomer as in general they aren’t really that rare.

Is it dangerous? It can contain some uranium and thorium, both of which can emit radiation when they decay to other elements. Probably more dangerous if thrown – it’s pretty dense (about 4x heavier than its equivalent volume of water)

Is it pretty? Not really, unless you like greasy looking, opaque, blackish lumps. No judgement.

What’s it named after? Named after a ‘who’ not a ‘what’ – it was named for the Finnish chemist Johan Gadolin, who discovered yttrium. He also had the element gadolinium named after him.

Johan Gadolin, seen here in his natural habitat on a postage stamp. Source: wikimedia.org

Wait, so why didn’t they name yttrium after him? Well, ten years earlier a sample of an unknown rock had been found at Ytterby in Sweden, and named for the village, the name more or less stuck when Mr Gadolin identified what it was.

Do any non-Scandinavian countries get to be involved? Not really – much like the Eurovision song contest, the Scandinavians had a near complete monopoly on the early research into the rare-earth elements.

We are getting sidetracked here, why should we care about this mineral? The whole group of rare earth elements are becoming really important these days – we need them for loads of modern technological uses, but some of the most important are rechargeable batteries, really strong magnets, etc. The looming threat of a trade war between the USA and China, who currently hold the vast majority of the world’s supply of these elements, will only make people more interested in minerals that contain them.

Do you have a favourite obscure mineral? Want to write about it? Contact us and give it a go!

Mike Jollands
Mike Jollands is an experimental petrologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He studies the diffusion and substitution mechanisms of trace elements, making use of high temperature and pressure equipment to simulate volcanic and mantle conditions. www.mikejollands.com

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