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What Is Scandium And Where Do I Use It?


  • Scandium (Chemical symbol Sc and atomic number 21) is a silver-white light transitional metal. It is classified as a rare-earth element.

  • Its main properties are its light weight, high melting point and small ionic radius. Scandium is only the 50th most common element on Earth, but it is the 23rd most common element in the Sun.

  • Due to the small size of its ions, it does not selectively combine with common ore-forming anions and rarely forms concentrations higher than 100 ppm in nature.

  • Scandium is mainly used, at grades of 0.1 to 0.5%, in aluminum alloys for aerospace and sports applications, including bicycle frames, tennis rackets and baseball bats.

  • The main reason to add scandium is that it adds strengths like no other element to lightweight aluminium alloys. More precisely, due to its fine grain refinement, scandium alloys reduce hot cracking in welds, increase strength in the welds and deliver better fatigue behaviour.

  • It is also used in halogen lamps in the scandium iodide form in order to obtain a light close to that of natural sunlight.

  • Scandium has two very important potential end-uses, notably in Europe: Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for energy storage and Sc-Al alloys in aerospace and automotive sectors.


Where is Scandium Produced?


  • The global producers of scandium are China 66%, Russia 23%, Ukraine 7% and Kazakhstan 1%. 


  • The global supply of scandium originates from primary sources such as ore feedstock, and secondary sources from mining production such as concentrates, metallurgical slags and residues. 


  • Scandium is typically produced as a co-product or by-product during processing of various ores (e.g., iron ore, REEs, titanium, zirconium, uranium, thorium, aluminium, tungsten, tin, tantalum, apatite, nickel and cobalt) and/or recovered from previously processed tailings and residues (USGS 2021 & 2022).


Global Market


  • Scandium is not traded on any metals exchange as scandium products are sold between private parties at undisclosed prices.

  • Data on scandium (Sc) production is very patchy and incomplete. According to the USGS (2022) the annual Sc production is estimated to 10-20 t; DERA (2021) assumes the figure to be around 14-16 t. Sc demand and supply are highly concentrated. With about 75% (>10 t) of the global annual production China is the largest producer of Sc. Other producers Russia (1-2 t/y) and the Philippines (ca. 1 t/y) (DERA, 2021). 


Specific Issues for Scandium


  • There is no production in the EU and few players along the value chain. Therefore, EU import reliance is 100%.

  • Due to its limited use, there is no recycling circuit for scandium in end-of-life products nor at the stage of new scrap. 


  • As the use of scandium is new and still a “niche market”, the use of scandium is in most of itsapplications a way to innovate and enhance performances and properties of already existing end-products. Therefore, scandium is rather considered as a substitute itself, and alternatives exist for almost all its uses. The decision for scandium at the choice of material is mainly driven by performance, price, or availability.



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