Terbium: the essentials

Terbium is reasonably stable in air. It is a silvery-grey metal, and is malleable, ductile, and soft enough to be cut with a knife. It is a rare earth metal found in cerite, gadolinite and monazite. The element itself was isolated only recently.

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Terbium: historical information

Terbium was discovered by Carl Mosander in 1843 at Sweden. Origin of name: named after "Ytterby", a town in Sweden.

Terbium was discovered by Gustav Mosander in 1843. He detected it is as an impurity in yttria which is yttrium oxide, Y2O3.

Terbium around us Read more »

Terbium has no biological role.

Lutetium is never found in nature as the free element. Lutetium is found in the ore monazite sand [(Ce, La, etc.)PO4], an ore containing small amounts of all the rare earth metals. Other minerals containing terbium include cerite, gadolinite, xenotime, and euxenite. It is difficult to separate from other rare earth elements.

Abundances for terbium in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 0.5 0.004 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 940 120 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human (no data) ppb by weight (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of terbium is: hcp (hexagonal close-packed).

Terbium: orbital properties Read more »

Terbium atoms have 65 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Terbium is [Xe].4f9.6s2 and the term symbol of Terbium is 6H15/2.


Isolation: terbium 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 terbium is available through the reduction of TbF3 with calcium metal.

2TbF3 + 3Ca → 2Tb + 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.

Terbium isotopes Read more »

Table. Stables isotopes of terbium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
159Tb 158.925342 (4) 100 3/2 2.014

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