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It's Elemental

The Element Erbium

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68 Er Erbium 167.259

Atomic Number: 68

Atomic Weight: 167.259

Melting Point: 1802 K (1529°C or 2784°F)

Boiling Point: 3141 K (2868°C or 5194°F)

Density: 9.07 grams per cubic centimeter

Phase at Room Temperature: Solid

Element Classification: Metal

Period Number: 6

Group Number: none

Group Name: Lanthanide

What's in a name? Named for the village of Ytterby, Sweden.

Say what? Erbium is pronounced as UR-bee-em.

History and Uses:

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 and, by 1877, had reversed their names. What Mosander called erbia is now called terbia and visa versa. From these two substances, Mosander discovered two new elements, terbium and erbium. 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).

Erbium is alloyed with vanadium to make it softer and easier to shape. Erbium is added to fiber optic cables as a doping agent where it is used as a signal amplifier. 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).

Estimated Crustal Abundance: 3.5 milligrams per kilogram

Estimated Oceanic Abundance: 8.7×10-7 milligrams per liter

Number of Stable Isotopes: 6 (View all isotope data)

Ionization Energy: 6.108 eV

Oxidation States: +3

Electron Shell Configuration:


2s2   2p6

3s2   3p6   3d10

4s2   4p6   4d10   4f12

5s2   5p6


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For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.