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70 thuliumytterbiumlutetium


Name, Symbol, Number ytterbium, Yb, 70
Chemical series lanthanides
Group, Period, Block n/a, 6, f
Appearance silvery white
Standard atomic weight 173.04(3)  g·mol−1
Electron configuration [Xe] 4f14 6s2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 32, 8, 2
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 6.90  g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 6.21  g·cm−3
Melting point 1097 K
(824 °C, 1515 °F)
Boiling point 1469 K
(1196 °C, 2185 °F)
Heat of fusion 7.66  kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 159  kJ·mol−1
Heat capacity (25 °C) 26.74  J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P(Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T(K) 736 813 910 1047 (1266) (1465)
Atomic properties
Crystal structure cubic face centered
Oxidation states 2,3
(basic oxide)
Electronegativity ? 1.1 (scale Pauling)
Ionization energies
1st:  603.4  kJ·mol−1
2nd:  1174.8  kJ·mol−1
3rd:  2417  kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 175pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 222  pm
Magnetic ordering no data
Electrical resistivity (r.t.) (β, poly)
0.250 µΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 38.5  W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (r.t.) (β, poly)
26.3 µm/(m·K)
Speed of sound (thin rod) (20 °C) 1590 m/s
Young's modulus (β form) 23.9  GPa
Shear modulus (β form) 9.9  GPa
Bulk modulus (β form) 30.5  GPa
Poisson ratio (β form) 0.207
Vickers hardness 206  MPa
Brinell hardness 343  MPa
CAS registry number 7440-64-4
Selected isotopes
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
166Yb syn 56.7 h ε 0.304 166Tm
168Yb 0.13% Yb is stable with 98 neutrons
169Yb syn 32.026 d ε 0.909 169Tm
170Yb 3.04% Yb is stable with 100 neutrons
171Yb 14.28% Yb is stable with 101 neutrons
172Yb 21.83% Yb is stable with 102 neutrons
173Yb 16.13% Yb is stable with 103 neutrons
174Yb 31.83% Yb is stable with 104 neutrons
175Yb syn 4.185 d β- 0.470 175Lu
176Yb 12.76% Yb is stable with 106 neutrons
177Yb syn 1.911 h β- 1.399 177Lu

Ytterbium (pronounced /ɪˈtɝbiəm/) is a chemical element with the symbol Yb and atomic number 70. A soft silvery metallic element, ytterbium is a rare earth of the lanthanide series and is found in the minerals gadolinite, monazite, and xenotime. The element is sometimes associated with yttrium or other related elements and is used in certain steels. Natural ytterbium is a mix of seven stable isotopes.

Notable characteristics

Ytterbium is a soft, malleable and rather ductile element that exhibits a bright silvery luster. A rare earth element, it is easily attacked and dissolved by mineral acids, slowly reacts with water, and oxidizes in air.

Ytterbium has three allotropes which are called alpha, beta and gamma and whose transformation points are at −13 °C and 795 °C. The beta form exists at room temperature and has a face-centered crystal structure while the high-temperature gamma form has a body-centered crystal structure.

Normally, the beta form has a metallic-like electrical conductivity, but becomes a semiconductor when exposed to around 16,000 atm (1.6 GPa). Its electrical resistivity is tenfold larger at about 39,000 atm (3.9 GPa) but then drops dramatically, to around 10% of its room temperature resistivity value, at 40,000 atm (4 GPa).

Ytterbium is one of the lanthanides that is able to become divalent. Like the other potentially divalent lanthanides, samarium and europium, it is capable of being extracted into mercury by the use of sodium amalgam, which made it one of the easier lanthanides to purify using classical techniques. However, this divalency was not discovered until the 20th century.


Usually, very small anount of Yb is used; either small sample of radioactive isotope as source of X-rays, or small concentration dopant.

Source of X-rays

The 169Yb isotope has been used as a radiation source substitute for a portable X-ray machine when electricity was not available. Like X-rays, gamma rays pass through soft tissues of the body, but are blocked by bones and other dense materials. Thus, small 169Yb samples (which emit gamma rays) act like tiny X-ray machines useful for radiography of small objects.

Doping of stainless steel

Ytterbium could also be used to help improve the grain refinement, strength, and other mechanical properties of stainless steel. Some ytterbium alloys have been used in dentistry.

Yb as dopant of active media

Yb is used as dopant in optics materials, usially in the form of ions in active laser media. Several powerful double-clad fiber lasers and disk lasers use Yb3+ ions as dopant at concentration of several atomic percent. Glasses (optical fibers), crystals and ceramics with Yb3+ are used.

Ytterbium is often used as a doping material (as Yb3+) for high power and wavelength-tunable solid state lasers. Yb lasers commonly radiate in the 1.06-1.12µm band being optically pumped at wavelength 900nm - 1µm, dependently on the ghost and application. Small quantum defect makes Yb prospective dopant for efficient lasers and power scaling.

The kinetic of excitations in Yb-doped materials is simple and can be described within concept of effective cross-sections; for the most of Yb-doped laser materials, the McCumber relation holds [1], although the application to the Yb-doped composite materials was under discussion [2][3].

Usually, low concentrtations of Yb are used. At high concentration of excitaitons, the Yb-doped materials show photodarkening [4] (glass fibers) or ever switch to the broadband emission [5] (crystals and ceramics) instead of the efficient laser action.

Solar cells

Ytterbium has a single absorption band at 985 nanometers, which is used to convert infrared energy into electricity in solar cells.


Ytterbium was discovered by the Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac in 1878. Marignac found a new component in the earth then known as erbia and named it ytterbia (after Ytterby, the Swedish town where he found the new erbia component). He suspected that ytterbia was a compound of a new element he called ytterbium.

In 1907, the French chemist Georges Urbain separated Marignac's ytterbia into two components, neoytterbia and lutecia. Neoytterbia would later become known as the element ytterbium and lutecia would later be known as the element lutetium. Auer von Welsbach independently isolated these elements from ytterbia at about the same time but called them aldebaranium and cassiopeium.

The chemical and physical properties of ytterbium could not be determined until 1953 when the first nearly pure ytterbium was produced.


Ytterbium is found with other rare earth elements in several rare minerals. It is most often recovered commercially from monazite sand (0.03% ytterbium). The element is also found in euxenite and xenotime. Ytterbium is normally difficult to separate from other rare earths but ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques developed in the late 20th century have simplified separation. Known compounds of ytterbium are rare—they haven't been well characterized yet.


Naturally occurring ytterbium is composed of 7 stable isotopes, Yb-168, Yb-170, Yb-171, Yb-172, Yb-173, Yb-174, and Yb-176, with Yb-174 being the most abundant (31.83% natural abundance). 27 radioisotopes have been characterized, with the most stable being Yb-169 with a half-life of 32.026 days, Yb-175 with a half-life of 4.185 days, and Yb-166 with a half life of 56.7 hours. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lifes that are less than 2 hours, and the majority of these have half lifes that are less than 20 minutes. This element also has 12 meta states, with the most stable being Yb-169m (t½ 46 seconds).

The isotopes of ytterbium range in atomic weight from 147.9674 u (Yb-148) to 180.9562 u (Yb-181). The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, Yb-174 is electron capture, and the primary mode after is beta emission. The primary decay products before Yb-174 are element 69 (thulium) isotopes, and the primary products after are element 71 (lutetium) isotopes. Of interest to modern quantum optics, the different ytterbium isotopes follow either Bose-Einstein statistics or Fermi-Dirac statistics, leading to interesting behavior in optical lattices.


Although ytterbium is fairly stable, it nevertheless should be stored in closed containers to protect it from air and moisture. All compounds of ytterbium should be treated as highly toxic although initial studies appear to indicate that the danger is limited. Ytterbium compounds are, however, known to cause skin and eye irritation and may be teratogenic. Metallic ytterbium dust poses a fire and explosion hazard.


See also


  1. reference about [[McCumber relation]
  2. D. Kouznetsov (2007). "Comment on Efficient diode-pumped Yb:Gd2SiO5 laser , Appl. Phys. Lett. 88, 221117 (2006)". Applied Physics Letters. 90: 066101. ISSN 0003-6951. Text "DOI: 10.1063/1.2435309 " ignored (help)
  3. Guangjun Zhao (2007). "Response to Comment on Efficient diode-pumped Yb:Gd2SiO5 laser, Appl. Phys. Lett. 90, 066101 (2007),". Applied Physics Letters. 90: 066103. doi:10.1063/1.2435314. Text "ISSN: 00036951 " ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  4. Joona J. Koponen. "Measuring photodarkening from single-mode ytterbium doped silica fibers". Optics Express. 14 (24): 11539–11544. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  5. J.-F. Bisson (2007). "Switching of emissivity and photoconductivity in highly doped Yb3+:Y2O3 and Lu2O3 ceramics". Applied Physics Letters. 90: 201901 (3 pages). doi:10.1063/1.2739318. ISSN 0003-6951. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)


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