Ytterbium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 70 and with the chemical symbol Yb. This chemical element belongs to period 6 elements and the Lanthanide category. Similar to the rest of the Lanthanide elements Ytterbium possesses some metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Ytterbium is preceded by Thulium and is followed by Lutetium.


Ytterbium is the penultimate of the Lanthanide elements in the Periodic Table and it is among the least abundant chemical elements on our planet. Ytterbium appears as a relatively soft, solid metallic element, which is relatively stable and quite hazardous. Ytterbium is traced as a mixture of other Lanthanide and Rare Earth elements in minerals like xenotime, monazite and euxenite. It acts as an irritant to skin and eye exposure and is quite flammable, combustible and explosive. Ytterbium needs to be handled with care and stored in special airtight containers so that it wouldn’t be exposed to air or moisture. It has several noteworthy applications in the laser industry, in metallurgy, in the manufacturing of atomic clocks, and as a source of gamma rays.


Physical Characteristics of Ytterbium

In terms of physical characteristics Ytterbium appears as a solid, relatively stable and reactive element with a silvery metallic finish, which has a soft, barely traceable yellow hint. It is ductile and malleable, which oxidizes slowly when exposed to air and reacts readily to water and mineral acids. Compared to other metallic chemical elements in the Periodic Table Ytterbium has the smallest liquid range of all of them. It also has lower melting and boiling points than most Lanthanides – 1097K and 1469K in their respective order. Ytterbium has a face-centered cubic crystal structure and forms basic oxides with oxidation states of +3, +2, and +1. This chemical element’s density is relatively low compared to most Lanthanide elements.


Chemical Properties of Ytterbium

Atomic Number – 70

Group – n/a

Period – 6

Block – f

Electronic Configuration – 4f14 6s2

Relative Atomic Mass – 173.04 (173.045 g/mol)

Molecular Weight – 173.04

Electronegativity – 1.1

Density (G CM-3) – 6.90 g/cm3 at room temperature; 6.21 g/cm3 in liquid state

Melting Point – 1097 K; 824 °C; 1515 °F

Boiling Point – 1469 K; 1196 °C; 2185 °F

Atomic Radius – 176 pm

Isotopes – 7

Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 32, 8, 2


Discovery of Ytterbium

The discovery of Ytterbium was carried out in 1878 by a Swiss chemist, named Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac. He obtained a sample of impure Ytterbium, or rather of Ytterbium oxide, after examining some samples of the mineral gadolinite. He decided to name the newly discovered element Ytterbium after the Swedish village Ytterby where he originally found the samples he was examining. The first relatively pure isolation of Ytterbium was carried out in 1907 by a French chemist, named Georges Urbain, and the first pure sample of Ytterbium was isolated in 1953.


Recognized by: Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac (1878)

Known and discovered by: Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac (1878)

Named by: Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac


Uses and role of Ytterbium

Ytterbium has several important scientific and commercial uses mainly in metallurgy, the laser industry, and in active media as a dopant.


Ytterbium plays a key role in the manufacturing of the extremely accurate atomic clocks. It is also an important source of gamma rays and an important dopant in stainless steel. Furthermore, some alloys consisting of Ytterbium have been used in dental medicine. It also has some applications in electronics and in the nuclear medical industry.


Ytterbium on Earth

Ytterbium does not occur freely in nature on Earth. It is among the least abundant chemical elements in the Periodic Table and can be found in the Earth’s crust in various ores and rare minerals. It is mostly found with other Lanthanides and Rare Earth elements in monazite, xenotime and euxenite. Due to the fact that it is rare and it has only several commercial uses Ytterbium does not have a large world production – only around 50 ton annually.



A recent discovery suggests that Ytterbium could replace Magnesium in pyrotechnics as a new source for infrared decoy flares because of its noteworthy high infrared emissivity, which is significantly higher than the one of Magnesium oxide.