Lanthanum (from the ancient Greek word ‘lanthanein’, to lie hidden) was discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Gustav Mosander, hidden in a cerium mineral. Although initially a shy element, nowadays gives its name to the group of metals with atomic numbers 58-71 (Ce-Lu), called lanthanoids (meaning ‘like lanthanum’). It is not used as a pure element, but you can find La compounds (mostly alloys with other metals) in rechargeable batteries, camera lenses, lighter flints, detectors, studio lighting devices and cinema projectors and also as catalysts in the petroleum industry. La has no known biological role, but lanthanum carbonate can be used as a treatment to lower phosphate levels in the human body.
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