|Boiling Point: 3136°K, 2863°C, 5185°F
Melting Point: 1795°K, 1522°C, 2772°F
Electrons Energy Level: 2, 8, 18, 30, 8, 2
Isotopes: 29 + 6 Stable + 3 meta states
Heat of Vaporization: 261 kJ/mol
Heat of Fusion: 19.9 kJ/mol
Density: 9.07g/cm3 @ 300°K
Specific Heat: 0.17 J/g°K
Atomic Radius: 2.45Å
Ionic Radius: 0.881Å
Electronegativity: 1.24 (Pauling); 1.14 (Allrod Rochow)
1s2 2s2p6 3s2p6d10 4s2p6d10f12 5s2p6 6s2
The mineral gadolinite, (Ce, La, Nd, Y)2FeBe2Si2O10, discovered in a quarry near the town of Ytterby, Sweden, has been the source of a great number of rare earth elements. In 1843, Carl Gustaf Mosander, a Swedish chemist, was able to separate gadolinite into three materials, which he named yttria, erbia and terbia. As might be expected considering the similarities between their names and properties, scientists soon confused erbia and terbia. After 1860, terbia was renamed erbia and after 1877 what had been known as erbia was renamed terbia. What Mosander called erbia is now called terbia and visa versa. From these two substances, Mosander discovered two new elements, terbium and erbium.
Fairly pure Er2O3 was independently isolated in 1905 by Georges Urbain and Charles James. Reasonably pure metal wasn't produced until 1934 when workers reduced the anydrous chloride with potassium vapor. Today, erbium is primarily obtained through an ion exchange process from the minerals xenotime, YPO4, and euxenite, (Y, Ca, Er, La, Ce, U, Th)(Nb, Ta, Ti)2O6.
A trivalent element, pure erbium metal is malleable (or easily shaped), soft yet stable in air and does not oxidize as quickly as some other rare-earth metals. Its salts are rose-colored and the element gives a characteristic sharp absorption spectra in visible light, ultravolet, and near infrared. Otherwise it looks much like the other rare earths. Its sesquoxide is called erbia. Erbium's properties are to a degree dictated by the kind and amount of impurities present. Erbium does not play any known biological role but is thought by some to be able to stimulate metabolism. Erbium doped glasses or crystals can be used as optical amplification media, where erbium ions are optically pumped at around 980nm or 1480nm and then radiate light at 1550nm. This process can be used to create lasers and optical amplifiers. The 1550nm wavelength is especially important for optical communications because standard single mode optical fibers have minimal loss at this particular wavelength.
Like other rare earths, this element is never found as a free element in nature but is found bound in monazite sand ores. It has historically been very difficult and expensive to separate rare earths from each other in their ores but ion-exchange production techniques developed in the late 20th century have greatly brought down the cost of production of all rare-earth metals and their chemical compounds. The principal commercial sources of erbium are from the minerals xenotime and euxenite.
Erbium's everyday uses are varied. It is commonly used as a photographic filter and because of its resilience it is useful as a metallurgical additive. Other uses:
Erbium is alloyed with vanadium to make it softer and easier to shape. Erbium also has some uses in the nuclear power industry.
Erbia, the renamed material that Mosander discovered in 1843, is erbium oxide (Er2O3), one of erbium's compounds. Erbia has a pink color and is used to color glass and glazes. Other erbium compounds include: erbium fluoride (ErF3, erbium chloride (ErCl3 and erbium iodide (ErI3).
Naturally occurring erbium is composed of 6 stable isotopes, 162Er, 164Er, 166Er, 167Er, 168Er, and 170Er with 166Er being the most abundant (33.6% natural abundance). 29 radioisotopes have been characterized, with the most stable being 169Er with a half life of 9.4 days, 172Er with a half-life of 49.3 hours, 160Er with a half-life of 28.58 hours, 165Er with a half-life of 10.36 hours, and 171Er with a half life of 7.516 hours. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lifes that are less than 3.5 hours, and the majority of these have half lifes that are less than 4 minutes. This element also has 6 meta states, with the most stable being 167mEr (t½ 2.269 seconds).
The isotopes of erbium range in atomic weight from 142.96634 amu (143Er) to 176.95405 amu (177Er). The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, 166Er, is electron capture, and the primary mode after is beta decay. The primary decay products before 166Er are element 67 (holmium) isotopes, and the primary products after are element 69 (thulium) isotopes.
As with the other lanthanides, erbium compounds are of low to moderate toxicity, although their toxicity has not been investigated in detail. Metallic erbium in dust form presents a fire and explosion hazard.
Atomic Radius (Å): 2.45Å
Electrochemical Equivalents: 2.0802g/amp-hr
Atomic Mass Average: 167.26