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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Erbium \Er"bi*um\, n. [NL. from Ytterby, in Sweden, where gadolinite is found. Cf. Terbium, Yttrium, Ytterbium.] (Chem.) A rare earth element of the lanthanide series associated with several other rare elements in the mineral gadolinite from Ytterby in Sweden. Symbol Er. It has atomic number 68 and an atomic weight of 167.26. The pure element is metallic with a bright, silvery luster. It is relatively stable in air, not oxidizing as quickly as some other rare earths. Its salts are rose-colored and give characteristic spectra, and the pink oxide has been added as a colorant in glass and porcelain enamel glazes. Its sesquioxide Er2O3 is called erbia.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1843, coined in Modern Latin with metallic element name -ium + erbia, name given by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander (1797-1858), who discovered it, from second element in Ytterby, name of a town in Sweden where mineral containing it was found (see Ytterbium).


n. 1 A metallic chemical element (''symbol'' Er) with an atomic number of 68. 2 (cx countable English) A single atom of this element.


n. a trivalent metallic element of the rare earth group; occurs with yttrium [syn: Er, atomic number 68]


Erbium is a chemical element in the lanthanide series, with symbol Er and atomic number 68. A silvery-white solid metal when artificially isolated, natural erbium is always found in chemical combination with other elements on Earth. As such, it is a rare earth element which is associated with several other rare elements in the mineral gadolinite from Ytterby in Sweden, where yttrium, ytterbium, and terbium were discovered.

Erbium's principal uses involve its pink-colored Er ions, which have optical fluorescent properties particularly useful in certain laser applications. Erbium-doped glasses or crystals can be used as optical amplification media, where erbium (III) ions are optically pumped at around 980 or and then radiate light at in stimulated emission. This process results in an unusually mechanically simple laser optical amplifier for signals transmitted by fiber optics. The wavelength is especially important for optical communications because standard single mode optical fibers have minimal loss at this particular wavelength.

In addition to optical fiber amplifier-lasers, a large variety of medical applications (i.e. dermatology, dentistry) rely on the erbium ion's emission (see Er:YAG laser), which is highly absorbed in water in tissues, making its effect very superficial. Such shallow tissue deposition of laser energy is helpful in laser surgery, and for the efficient production of steam which produces enamel ablation by common types of dental laser.

Usage examples of "erbium".

For example, for some reason we need two tons of erbium, so they run through a nifty technique to extract it from ordinary rocks.

At every stage of construction there were checkpoints: The erbium produced by this process should be 96 percent pure, with no more than a fraction of a percent impurity from the other rare earths.

As reconstructed by the Commission of Inquiry, one of the erbium dowels was sundered by an explosion.

The other three erbium dowels in the same lot were inspected and revealed no plastic explosive.

He had seen the explosion before others heard it, bad spied the several-hundred-kilogram mass of erbium arcing toward them.

Or perhaps, der Heer had gone on, sensing her displeasure, Drumlin had been thrown into the air by the concussion of the erbium hitting the staging surface.

She had, after all, been the person closest to Drumlin when the erbium dowel struck and pulped him.

Above and below she could make out the organosilicate lacework and the implanted erbium dowels, which seemed to be stirring.

She could see it glint off the black erbium cylinders, now almost stationary.

Three story overhead cranes were positioning erbium dowels in the organic matrix.

He had seen the explosion before others heard it, bad spied the several hundred kilogram mass of erbium arcing toward them.

Other elements are less familiar - hafnium, erbium, dysprosium and praseodymium, say, which we do not much bump into in everyday life.

Such stellar nuclear reactions do not readily generate erbium, hafnium, dysprosium, praseodymium or yttrium, but rather the elements we know in everyday life, elements returned to the interstellar gas, where they are swept up in a subsequent generation of cloud collapse and star and planet formation.

Each amplifier contains an approximately 10-meter-long piece of special fiber that has been doped with erbium ions, making it capable of functioning as a laser medium.

This light, directed into the doped fiber, pumps the electrons orbiting around those erbium ions up to a higher energy level.