Skip to Main Content

About Erbium

Erbium Bohr

In 1787, army-lieutenant and chemist Carl Axel Arrhenius found a rock in a quarry near the Swedish village of Ytterby which he suspected contained the newly discovered element tungsten. Analysis by other chemists did not bear out his suspicions, but ultimately four new elements were identified from the mineral Arrhenius had named "ytterbite" in honor of Ytterby. Carl Gustaf Mosander isolated three new oxides in 1843, one of which he named erbia, hence the element's name of erbium.

Erbium 3+ ions have optical properties that account for most uses of the element. Erbium-doped glasses and crystals are used as laser gain media, optical fibers, and amplifiers used in fiber optical communications systems. Erbium lasers also are frequently used in medical, dermatological, and dental, and settings, and stronger erbium-ytterbium lasers are used in metal cutting and welding. The same distinct absorption and emission spectra that make erbium useful for functional optical applications yield the distinct pink coloring of erbium 3+ compounds, and so erbium may also be used aesthetically as a colorant for glasses, ceramics, and cubic zirconia.

Aside from its optical properties, erbium is useful for its ability to readily absorb free neutrons, which lends it to use in control rods in nuclear reactors. Additionally, erbium alloys are used for their high specific heat capacity in cryocoolers for use near liquid helium temperatures.

Erbium is a rare earth element and can be found in any rare earth-containing mineral, but as a heavy rare earth element (HREE) it is more common in HREE-enriched minerals such as xenotime and euxenite. Additionally, erbium is present in ion adsorption clays, which are a major source of HREEs due to their relative ease of processing, despite the low percentage quantities of rare earths they contain.

+ Open All
- Close All
Elemental Erbium Picture

Erbium has application in glass coloring, as an amplifier in fiber optics, and in lasers for medical and dental use. The ion has a very narrow absorption band that results in the distinct pink coloring of erbium salts. It is therefore used in eyeware and decorative glassware. It can neutralize discoloring impurities such as ferric ions and produce a neutral gray shade. It is used in a variety of glass products for this purpose. It is particularly useful as an amplifier for fiber optic data transfer. Erbium lases at the wavelength required to provide an efficient optical method of amplification, 1.55 micronsHigh Purity (99.999%) Erbium (Er) Sputtering Target. Lasers based on Er:YAG are ideally suited for surgical applications because of their ability to deliver energy without thermal build-up in tissue. Erbium isHigh Purity (99.999%) Erbium Oxide (Er2O3) Powder available as metal and compounds with purities from 99% to 99.999% (ACS grade to ultra-high purity). Elemental or metallic forms include pellets, rod, wire and granules for evaporation source material purposes. Erbium oxides are available in powder and dense pellet form for such uses as optical coating and thin film applications. Oxides tend to be insoluble. Erbium fluoride is another insoluble form for uses in which oxygen is undesirable such as metallurgy, chemical and physical vapor deposition and in some optical coatings. Erbium is also available in soluble forms including chlorides, nitrates and acetates. These compounds can be manufactured as solutions at specified stoichiometries.

Erbium Properties

Erbium (Er) atomic and molecular weight, atomic number and elemental symbol Erbium is a Block F, Group 3, Period 6 element. The number of electrons in each of Erbium's shells is 2, 8, 18, 30, 8, 2 and its electronic configuration is Erbium Bohr Model[Xe]4f12 6s2. In its elemental form, CAS 7440-52-0, erbium has a silvery white appearance. The erbium atom has a radius of and its Van der Waals radius is unknown. Erbium is named after the Swedish town, Ytterby and was first discovered by Carl Mosander in 1843. Erbium is found in monazite sand ores.

Symbol: Er
Atomic Number: 68
Atomic Weight: 382.56
Element Category: Lanthanide
Group, Period, Block: n/a, 6, f
Color: silvery-white
Other Names: Erbio
Melting Point: 1529 °C, 2784.2 °F, 1802.15 K
Boiling Point: 2868 °C, 5194.4 °F, 3141.15 K
Density: 9066 kg·m3
Liquid Density @ Melting Point: 8.86 g·cm3
Density @ 20°C: 9.05 g/cm3
Density of Solid: 9066 kg·m3
Specific Heat: 0.0401 Cal/g/K @ 25°C
Superconductivity Temperature: N/A
Triple Point: N/A
Critical Point: N/A
Heat of Fusion (kJ·mol-1): 17.2
Heat of Vaporization (kJ·mol-1): 280
Heat of Atomization (kJ·mol-1): 318.32
Thermal Conductivity: 0.145 W/cm/K @ 298.2 K
Thermal Expansion: (r.t.) (poly) 12.2 µm/(m·K)
Electrical Resistivity: 107.0 µΩ-cm@ 25°C
Tensile Strength: N/A
Molar Heat Capacity: 28.12 J·mol-1·K-1
Young's Modulus: 69.9 GPa
Shear Modulus: 28.3 GPa
Bulk Modulus: 44.4 GPa
Poisson Ratio: 0.237
Mohs Hardness: N/A
Vickers Hardness: 589 MPa
Brinell Hardness: 814 MPa
Speed of Sound: (20 °C) 2830 m·s-1
Pauling Electronegativity: 1.24
Sanderson Electronegativity: N/A
Allred Rochow Electronegativity: 1.11
Mulliken-Jaffe Electronegativity: N/A
Allen Electronegativity: N/A
Pauling Electropositivity: 2.76
Reflectivity (%): N/A
Refractive Index: N/A
Electrons: 68
Protons: 68
Neutrons: 99
Electron Configuration: [Xe]4f12 6s2
Atomic Radius: 176 pm
Atomic Radius,
non-bonded (Å):
Covalent Radius: 189±6 pm
Covalent Radius (Å): 1.77
Van der Waals Radius: 235 pm
Oxidation States: 3, 2, 1 (basic oxide)
Phase: Solid
Crystal Structure: hexagonal close-packed
Magnetic Ordering: paramagnetic
Electron Affinity (kJ·mol-1) Unknown
1st Ionization Energy: 589.31 kJ·mol-1
2nd Ionization Energy: 1151.08 kJ·mol-1
3rd Ionization Energy: 2194.09 kJ·mol-1
CAS Number: 7440-52-0
EC Number: 231-160-1
MDL Number: MFCD00010987
Beilstein Number: N/A
SMILES Identifier: [Er]
InChI Identifier: InChI=1S/Er
PubChem CID: 23980
ChemSpider ID: 22416
Earth - Total: 231 ppb
Mercury - Total: 177 ppb
Venus - Total: 242 ppb
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by weight: 0.0009
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by atoms: 0.000033
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by weight: 3000
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by atoms: 370
Sun - Total, ppb by weight: 1
Sun - Total, ppb by atoms: 0.01
Stream, ppb by weight: 0.05
Stream, ppb by atoms: 0.0003
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by weight: 180
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by atoms: 20
Typical Human Body, ppb by weight: N/A
Typical Human Body, ppb by atom: N/A
Universe, ppb by weight: 2
Universe, ppb by atom: 0.01
Discovered By: Carl Gustaf Mosander
Discovery Date: 1842
First Isolation: N/A

Health, Safety & Transportation Information for Erbium

Erbium is moderately toxic. Safety data for Erbium and its compounds can vary widely depending on the form. For potential hazard information, toxicity, and road, sea and air transportation limitations, such as DOT Hazard Class, DOT Number, EU Number, NFPA Health rating and RTECS Class, please see the specific material or compound referenced in the Products tab. The below information applies to elemental (metallic) Erbium.

Safety Data
Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS
Signal Word Warning
Hazard Statements H228
Hazard Codes F
Risk Codes 11
Safety Precautions 43
RTECS Number N/A
Transport Information UN 3089 4.1/PG 2
WGK Germany 3
Globally Harmonized System of
Classification and Labelling (GHS)

Erbium Isotopes

Naturally occurring erbium (Er) has 6 stable isotopes: 162Er, 164Er, 166Er, 167Er, 168Er, and 170Er.

Nuclide Isotopic Mass Half-Life Mode of Decay Nuclear Spin Magnetic Moment Binding Energy (MeV) Natural Abundance
(% by atom)
142Er 141.97231(47)# N/A Unknown N/A N/A N/A -
143Er 142.96634(64)# 200# ms Unknown 9/2-# N/A 1116.22 -
144Er 143.96038(43)# 400# ms [>200 ns] ß+ to 144Ho 0+ N/A 1124.3 -
145Er 144.95739(43)# 900(300) ms ß+ to 145Ho 1/2+# N/A 1141.69 -
146Er 145.95200(32)# 1.7(6) s ß+ to 146Ho; ß+ + p to 145Dy 0+ N/A 1149.77 -
147Er 146.94949(32)# ~2.5 s ß+ to 147Ho; ß+ + p to 146Dy (1/2+) N/A 1167.17 -
148Er 147.94455(21)# 4.6(2) s ß+ to 148Ho; ß+ + p to 147Dy 0+ N/A 1175.25 -
149Er 148.94231(3) 4(2) s ß+ to 149Ho; ß+ + p to 148Dy (1/2+) N/A 1183.33 -
150Er 149.937914(18) 18.5(7) s ß+ to 150Ho 0+ N/A 1200.72 -
151Er 150.937449(18) 23.5(13) s ß+ to 151Ho (7/2-) N/A 1208.8 -
152Er 151.935050(11) 10.3(1) s a to 148Dy; ß+ to 152Ho 0+ N/A 1216.88 -
153Er 152.935063(9) 37.1(2) s a to 149Dy; ß+ to 153Ho 7/2(-) N/A 1224.96 -
154Er 153.932783(6) 3.73(9) min a to 150Dy; ß+ to 154Ho 0+ N/A 1233.03 -
155Er 154.933209(7) 5.3(3) min ß+ to 154Ho; a to 150Dy 7/2- N/A 1241.11 -
156Er 155.931065(26) 19.5(10) min ß+ to 156Ho 0+ N/A 1249.19 -
157Er 156.93192(3) 18.65(10) min ß+ to 157Ho 3/2- N/A 1257.27 -
158Er 157.929893(27) 2.29(6) h EC to 158Ho 0+ N/A 1274.67 -
159Er 158.930684(5) 36(1) min ß+ to 159Ho 3/2- N/A 1273.43 -
160Er 159.929083(26) 28.58(9) h EC to 160Ho 0+ N/A 1290.82 -
161Er 160.929995(10) 3.21(3) h EC to 161Ho 3/2- -0.37 1298.9 -
162Er 161.928778(4) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1306.98 0.14
163Er 162.930033(6) 75.0(4) min EC to 163Ho 5/2- 0.557 1305.74 -
164Er 163.929200(3) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1323.14 1.61
165Er 164.930726(3) 10.36(4) h EC to 165Ho 5/2- 0.643 1321.9 -
166Er 165.9302931(27) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1329.98 33.61
167Er 166.9320482(27) Observationally Stable - 7/2+ -0.5665 1338.06 22.93
168Er 167.9323702(27) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1346.14 26.78
169Er 168.9345904(27) 9.392(18) d ß- to 169Tm 1/2- 0.515 1354.22 -
170Er 169.9354643(30) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1362.29 14.93
171Er 170.9380298(30) 7.516(2) h ß- to 171Tm 5/2- 0.66 1370.37 -
172Er 171.939356(5) 49.3(3) h ß- to 172Tm 0+ N/A 1378.45 -
173Er 172.94240(21)# 1.434(17) min ß- to 173Tm (7/2-) N/A 1377.21 -
174Er 173.94423(32)# 3.2(2) min ß- to 174Tm 0+ N/A 1385.29 -
175Er 174.94777(43)# 1.2(3) min ß- to 175Tm (9/2+) N/A 1393.37 -
176Er 175.95008(43)# 20# s ß- to 176Tm 0+ N/A 1392.13 -
177Er 176.95405(54)# 3# s ß- to 177Tm 1/2-# N/A 1400.21 -