Erbium: the essentials
Erbium atoms have 68 electrons and the shell structure is 22.214.171.124.8.2. The ground state electronic configuration of neutral erbium is [Xe].4f12.6s2 and the term symbol of erbium is 3H6.
Pure erbium metal is soft and malleable and has a bright, silvery, metallic lustre. As with other rare-earth metals, its properties depend to a certain extent on impurities present. The metal is fairly stable in air and does not oxidise as rapidly as some of the other rare-earth metals.
This sample is from The Elements Collection, an attractive and safely packaged collection of the 92 naturally occurring elements that is available for sale.
Erbium: physical properties
Erbium: heat properties
- Melting point: 1802 [1529 °C (2784 °F)] K
- Boiling point: 1802 [1529 °C (2784 °F)] K
- Enthalpy of fusion: 20.5 kJ mol-1
Erbium: atom sizes
- Atomic radius (empirical): 175 pm
- Molecular single bond covalent radius: 165 (coordination number 3) ppm
- van der Waals radius: 279 ppm
- Pauling electronegativity: 1.24 (Pauling units)
- Allred Rochow electronegativity: 1.11 (Pauling units)
- Mulliken-Jaffe electronegativity: (no data)
Erbium: orbital properties
- First ionisation energy: 589.30 kJ mol‑1
- Second ionisation energy: 1149.7 kJ mol‑1
- Third ionisation energy: 2190 kJ mol‑1
Erbium: crystal structure
Erbium: biological data
- Human abundance by weight: (no data) ppb by weight
Erbium has no biological role but is said to stimulate the metabolism.
Reactions of erbium as the element with air, water, halogens, acids, and bases where known.
Erbium: binary compounds
Binary compounds with halogens (known as halides), oxygen (known as oxides), hydrogen (known as hydrides), and other compounds of erbium where known.
Erbium: compound properties
Bond strengths; lattice energies of erbium halides, hydrides, oxides (where known); and reduction potentials where known.
Erbium: historyErbium was discovered by Carl G. Mosander in 1842 at Sweden. Origin of name: named after the village of "Ytterby" near Vaxholm in Sweden.
Erbium has six stable isotopes but only Er-168 appears to have a well established application. Er-168 is used for the production of Er-169 which is used in form of citrate for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Isolation: erbium metal is available commercially so it is not normally necessary to make it in the laboratory, which is just as well as it is difficult to isolate as the pure metal. This is largely because of the way it is found in nature. The lanthanoids are found in nature in a number of minerals. The most important are xenotime, monazite, and bastnaesite. The first two are orthophosphate minerals LnPO4 (Ln deonotes a mixture of all the lanthanoids except promethium which is vanishingly rare) and the third is a fluoride carbonate LnCO3F. Lanthanoids with even atomic numbers are more common. The most comon lanthanoids in these minerals are, in order, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, and praseodymium. Monazite also contains thorium and ytrrium which makes handling difficult since thorium and its decomposition products are radioactive.
For many purposes it is not particularly necessary to separate the metals, but if separation into individual metals is required, the process is complex. Initially, the metals are extracted as salts from the ores by extraction with sulphuric acid (H2SO4), hydrochloric acid (HCl), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Modern purification techniques for these lanthanoid salt mixtures are ingenious and involve selective complexation techniques, solvent extractions, and ion exchange chromatography.
Pure erbium is available through the reduction of ErF3 with calcium metal.
2ErF3 + 3Ca → 2Er + 3CaF2
This would work for the other calcium halides as well but the product CaF2 is easier to handle under the reaction conditions (heat to 50°C above the melting point of the element in an argon atmosphere). Excess calcium is removed from the reaction mixture under vacuum.