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Atomic Number:68Atomic Symbol:Er
Atomic Weight:167.26Electron Configuration:2-8-30-8-2
Shells:2,8,18,30,8,2Filling Orbital:4f12
Melting Point:1522oCBoiling Point:2510oC
Description:Grayish-silver rare earth metal.


(Ytterby, a town in Sweden)
  • Erbium, one of the so-called rare-earth elements on the lanthanide series, is found in the minerals mentioned under dysprosium.
  • In 1842 Mosander separated "yttria" found in the mineral gadolinite, into three fractions which he called yttria, erbia, and terbia.
  • The names erbia and terbia became confused in this early period.
  • After 1860, Mosander's terbia was known as erbia, and after 1877, the earlier known erbia became terbia.
  • The erbia of this period was later shown to consist of five oxides, now known as erbia, scandia, holmia, thulia and ytterbia.
  • By 1905 Urbain and James independently succeeded in isolating fairly pure Er2O3.
  • Klemm and Bommer first produced reasonably pure erbium metal in 1934 by reducing the anhydrous chloride with potassium vapor.


  • The pure metal is soft and malleable and has a bright, silvery, metallic luster.
  • As with other rare-earth metals, its properties depend to a certain extent on the impurities present.
  • The metal is fairly stable in air and does not oxidize as rapidly as some of the other rare-earth metals.
  • Naturally occurring erbium is a mixture of six isotopes, all of which are stable.
  • Nine radioactive isotopes of erbium are also recognized.


Recent production techniques, using ion-exchange reactions, have resulted in much lower prices of the rare-earch metals and their compounds in recent years. The cost of 99+% erbium metal is about $650/kg.


  • Erbium is finding nuclear and metallurgical uses.
  • Added to vanadium, for example, erbium lowers the hardness and improves workability. Most of the rare-earth oxides have sharp absorption bands in the visible, ultraviolet, and near infrared.
  • This proerty, associated with the electronic structure, gives beautiful pastel colors to many of the rare-earth salts.
  • Erbium oxide gives a pink color and has been used as a colorant in glasses and porcelain enamel glazes.

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