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For coating for sunglasses.
(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-earth 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
property, 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.
Sources: CRC Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics and the American Chemical Society.
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