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Lanthanum oxide is an odorless, white solid that is insoluble in water, but soluble in dilute acid. Depending on the pH of the compound, different crystal structures can be obtained. La2O3 is hygroscopic; under atmosphere, it absorbs moisture over time and converts to lanthanum hydroxide. Lanthanum oxide has p-type semiconducting properties and a band gap of approximately 5.8 eV.. Its average room temperature resistivity is 10 kΩ·cm, which decreases with an increase in temperature. La2O3 has the lowest lattice energy of the rare earth oxides, with very high dielectric constant, ε = 27.
La2O3 is used to make optical glasses, to which this oxide confers increased density, refractive index, and hardness. Together with oxides of tungsten, tantalum, and thorium, La2O3 improves the resistance of the glass to attack by alkali. La2O3 is an ingredient for the manufacture of piezoelectric and thermoelectric materials. Automobile exhaust-gas converters contain La2O3. La2O3 is also used in X-ray imaging intensifying screens, phosphors as well as dielectric and conductive ceramics. Gives off bright glow.
La2O3 has been examined for the oxidative coupling of methane.
La2O3 films can be deposited by many different methods, including chemical vapor disposition, atomic layer deposition, thermal oxidation, sputtering, and spray pyrolysis. Depositions of these films occur in a temperature range of 250–450 °C. Polycrystalline films are formed at 350 °C.
La2O3 tungsten electrodes are replacing thoriated tungsten electrodes in Gas tungsten arc welding (TIG) due to safety concerns with thorium's radioactivity.