Erbium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 68 and with the chemical symbol Er. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Erbium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Erbium is preceded by Holmium and is followed by Thulium.


Erbium is a typical Lanthanide chemical element. It has a silvery metallic luster and is relatively soft and malleable. Erbium is a noteworthy electropositive element and it does not occur in a free state in nature, but only as a mixture of other chemical elements in minerals like gadolinite and in monazite ores. It is valued for its relative air stability, its malleability, and its colorful salt specter. These and many other properties of Erbium are applied in various industries, including glass manufacturing, nuclear science, metallurgy, optics, electronics, and even in medicine. While this particular chemical element does not play any biological role in human beings and other living organisms on our planet, its salts can boost metabolism. Erbium dust is slightly toxic and is considered as an explosion and fire hazard.


Physical Characteristics of Erbium

Typically like most Lanthanide elements Erbium has a silvery metallic finish, which gets tarnished after overexposure to air. It oxidizes quite slowly and forms basic oxides in oxidation states of 3, 2, and 1. Erbium salts have a distinctive rose pink color. This chemical element has fluorescent properties like some other Lanthanides. Holmium’s melting and boiling points are noteworthy high – 1802K and 3141K in their respective order. This Lanthanide element changes its magnetic ordering from ferromagnetic (at temperatures below 19K) to antiferromagnetic (at temperatures between 19K and 80K); and even to paramagnetic (at temperatures above 80K).


Chemical Properties of Erbium


Atomic Number – 68

Group – n/a

Period – 6

Block – f

Electronic Configuration – 4f12 6s2

Relative Atomic Mass – 167.259 (167.259 g/mol)

Molecular Weight – 167.259

Electronegativity – 1.24

Density (G CM-3) – 9.066 g/cm3 at room temperature; 8.86 g/cm3 in liquid state

Melting Point – 1802 K; 1529 °C; 2784 °F

Boiling Point – 3141 K; 2868 °C; 5194 °F

Atomic Radius – 176 pm

Isotopes – 6

Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 30, 8, 2


Discovery of Erbium

Erbium was discovered back in 1843 by a Swedish chemist, named Carl Gustaf Mosander, who managed to separate Yttria (Yttrium oxide), Erbia (Erbium oxide), and Terbia (Terbium oxide)from the mineral gadolinite. He named the newly discovered Erbium after a village in his home country Sweden. The very first pure isolation of pure Erbium metal was carried out in 1934.


Recognized by: Carl Gustaf Mosander (1843)

Known and discovered by: Carl Gustaf Mosander (1843)

Named by: Carl Gustaf Mosander


Uses and role of Erbium

Erbium does not play any known biological role for human beings or other living organisms on Earth. However, it has been discovered that it has the ability to boost up metabolism. Erbium has various applications in metallurgy, nuclear science, optics and glass manufacturing, as well as in the laser industry.


Erbium has various uses in glass manufacturing as a colorant, as an amplifier, and a strengthener for commercial products like sunglasses, beads and porcelain goods. It has various applications in many lasers, including in dental lasers and other types of devices used in laser surgery procedures. An alloy of Nickel and Erbium is used in the manufacturing of cryocoolers. Another application of Erbium is the role it plays as an amplifier in electronics and optical communications. Finally, it is also used in common photographic filters.


Erbium on Earth

Erbium is a slightly toxic element, which does not occur freely in its natural form on Earth. Erbium can be found in various minerals and monazite ores in the Earth’s crust, as well as in sea water, but in tiny quantities. It is the 45th most abundant chemical element of all elements in the Periodic Table on Earth. The main commercial sources of this particular element are xenotime and euxenite.



It was recently discovered that Erbium, which is applied as a main component in the Erbium-YAG laser, is in fact a safe treatment for women suffering from stress urinary incontinence (SUI).