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Erbium is an important element in the periodic table that has gained recognition due to its uses and chemical properties. 

Carl Gustaf Mosander discovered erbium in the year 1842. Earlier, the element was known as Terbia because the properties of the element were found to be similar to rare-earth metals, where the name was changed from terbium to erbium. Erbium is present in several rare-earth minerals such as euxenite, xenotime as well as in laterite ionic clays. The element forms a part of the Lanthanide series of elements in the periodic table and is also present in the nuclear fission reactions.

Erbium also occurs with Tantalum and Tungsten and forms the Earth's crust. In the following discussion, we shall learn more about the properties of erbium, erbium meaning, erbium symbol, and its uses.

Erbium: Er Element Periodic Table

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After the discovery of this rare-earth element, it was named after Ytterby, Sweden. Erbium is a rare-earth element that possesses radioactive properties. The element is positioned at number 11 in the Lanthanide series. 

The pure form of Erbium is silver to white and has relative stability in the presence of air. The element was one of the first Lanthanide elements to be discovered. It was discovered after the discovery of two oxides from Yttrium, and one of them was believed to be Erbium oxide that displayed a pink colouration. The other oxide was that of the metal terbium.

The study regarding properties and chemical reactions displayed by the element is difficult because Erbium generally occurs in combination with other rare-earth elements of the periodic table that leads to improper analysis of Erbium's properties. 

Let us discuss the general properties of erbium and its representation in the periodic table.

Properties of Erbium

In pure form, the erbium displays malleable characteristics. As the element belongs to the Lanthanide series of the periodic table, its properties are similar to those of the rare-earth metals.

Erbium, which occurs naturally in minerals as a stable form, is composed of six isotopes,

  • Erbium-166 or 166Er

  • Erbium-168 or 168Er

  • Erbium-167 or 167Er

  • Erbium-170 or 170Er

  • Erbium-164 or 164Er

  • Erbium-162 or 162Er

Additionally, there are approximately 30 known isotopes of erbium that are radioactive. The element also has some nuclear isomers that have been discovered as products of nuclear fission reactions. 

Certain Facts about Erbium

The general properties of Er periodic table are summarized below:

  • The symbol for erbium: Er

  • Group in periodic table: Lanthanide series

  • Period of the element: 6

  • Block of erbium in periodic table: f

  • Erbium atomic number: 68

  • Erbium electron configuration:[Xe] 4f126s2

  • ChemSpider ID: 22416

Did You Know? 

ChemSpider ID is a free database that keeps a record of various elements' chemical structure and properties in the periodic table.

Physical Properties of Er Element Periodic Table

The erbium's physical properties are similar to metals like terbium and yttrium, and other associated rare-earth metals. The major physical properties of erbium are:

  • The melting point of erbium: 1522oC

  • The boiling point of erbium: 2510oC

  • The density of erbium: 9.07 g/cm3

  • The relative atomic mass of erbium: 167.259

  • State of erbium at room temperature: Solid-state

  • Isotopes of erbium: 166Er, 168Er, 167Er, 170Er or 169Er, 164Er,162Er

  • CAS number of erbium: 7440-52-0

  • Specific heat capacity of erbium: 168 J kg−1 K−1

Radioactive isotopes of erbium are unstable at normal state temperatures with very short half-lives. 

Chemical Properties of Erbium

Erbium is one of the members of rare-earth metals in the Lanthanide family of the periodic table and hence, most of its chemical properties are similar to them and include:

  • The oxidation state of erbium is +3 and displays a pink colour in this oxidation state.

  • Erbium reacts shows a reaction with water.

  • The element shows solubility in acids. 

  • Erbium reacts with all acids except Hydrogen fluoride due to the formation of ErF3 that acts as a protective layer that prevents further dissolution.

  • Erbium displays highly powerful magnetic properties, and it is antiferromagnetic.

  • Erbium occurs mixed with other rare-earth metals in mineral composition.

  • The purification of erbium from its mineral form is carried out using the liquid-liquid solvent extraction method.

  • Erbium has a hexagonal chemical structure with a single allotrope.

  • Erbium shows a metallothermic reaction with calcium fluoride.

Uses of Erbium

When the rare-earth metal is provided with a high energy state, the Er+3 emits photons of different wavelengths that enable the element's commercial use.  

Erbium has the following uses:

  • It is used in fibre-optics transmissions and telecommunications in amplifiers.

  • Erbium is used in the development of lasers, and it adds a pink colouration to laser beams.

  • It is also used to induce a pink coloured tint in the development of lenses.

  • Zirconia is a type of synthetic gem that involves the use of erbium for stabilization.

  • Erbium, in its ionic state, finds use in laser surgery.

  • Erbium is used as a control rod in a nuclear reactor.

  • Erbium is used in the development of metal alloys.

  • It is also used in manufacturing coloured glasses.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is Erbium?

Ans. Erbium is a radioactive metal belonging to the Lanthanide series of the periodic table at the 11th position. The element occurs as a metal in its pure form and is malleable at room temperature. The element occurs as a combination of six stable isotopes and often forms a part of minerals. Pure erbium is extracted using liquid-liquid solvent extraction as well as using ion-exchange methods on a commercial scale. The extracted erbium displays a silverish-white colour. A common isotope of the element is 166Er. The chemical and physical properties of the metal are similar to the rare-earth metals. Erbium is one of the major elements found in Earth’s crust.

Q2. What is Erbium Used for?

Ans. The main principle behind the industrial use of the element Erbium is its oxidation/ionic state. When the element is exposed to a higher state of energy than its stable state, then erbium goes to its ionic state, Er+3, which is responsible for emitting photons of varying wavelengths. This property is used in the production of laser beams. Thus, erbium is used in laser surgery as well as in amplifiers used for telecommunication and transmissions. Erbium is also used as control rods in a working nuclear reactor as the element is often released as a by-product in nuclear fission. Erbium is also used to develop pink-coloured glasses and lenses as the oxide of metal displays pink colouration.