Ytterbium (Yb)-Discovery, Occurrence, Production, Properties and Applications of Ytterbium

Topics Covered

Chemical Formula
Basic Information
Health Aspects
Key Properties

Chemical Formula



A French chemist Jean-Charles-Galissard de Marignac discovered the element named ytterbium. Erbium nitrate was heated by de Marignac until it totally decomposed, followed by extraction of the residue from which two oxides were obtained. One oxide was called erbium oxide and the other was named ytterbium.

A very small amount of impure ytterbium metal was made in 1937, formed by heating potassium and ytterbium chloride. It was only in 1953 that a pure sample of ytterbium metal was obtained.

Basic Information

Name Ytterbium
Symbol Yb
Atomic number 70
Atomic weight 173.054
Standard state Solid at 298 K
CAS Registry ID 7440-64-4
Group name Lanthanoid
Period in periodic table 6
Block in periodic table f-block
Color Silvery white
Classification Metallic
Melting point 1092 K (819°C or 1506°F)
Boiling point 1469 K (1196°C or 2185°F)
Density 6.90 g/cm3
Phase at room temperature Solid


Ytterbium occurs in the phosphate mineral monazite, at about 0.03 percent.

Ytterbium - Periodic Table of Videos


Ytterbium has seven naturally occurring isotopes that include ytterbium-176, ytterbium-168, ytterbium-170, ytterbium-172, ytterbium-171, ytterbium-173 and ytterbium-174. Ytterbium also has ten radioactive isotopes. Ytterbium-169 is one such radioactive isotope that gives off gamma radiation similar to X rays.


Ytterbium is produced from its ores by reaction with lanthanum metal. For example, the element is extracted by solvent extraction and ion exchange from monazite.

Key Properties

The key properties of ytterbium include:

  • It is has a shiny and bright surface
  • It is ductile and malleable
  • It reacts slowly with water
  • It reacts in a rapid manner with liquid ammonia and acids
  • It is a lot more reactive in comparison with other lanthanide elements.


Ytterbium is useful in the following applications:

  • It is used as a doping agent in fiber optic cable
  • It is used in superconductors
  • It is used in making lasers
  • Ytterbium compounds are used as catalysts in the organic chemical industry
  • Ytterbium fiber laser amplifiers are used in marking and engraving
  • A small amount of ytterbium is used to add strength to specific steel types.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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