Name, Symbol, Number Ytterbium, Yb, 70
Chemical series Lanthanides
Group, Period, Block NA, 6, f
Density, Hardness 6570 kg/m3, ND
Appearance silvery white
Atomic properties
Atomic weight 173.04 u
Atomic radius (calc.) 175 (222) pm
Covalent radius ND pm
van der Waals radius ND pm
Electron configuration [Xe]4f146s2
e- 's per energy level 2,8,18,32,8,2
Oxidation states (Oxide) 3 (base)
Crystal structure Cubic face centered
Physical properties
State of matter solid
Melting point 1097 K (1515 ?F)
Boiling point 1467 K (2181 ?F)
Molar volume 24.84 ×10-6 m3/mol
Heat of vaporization 128.9 kJ/mol
Heat of fusion 7.66 kJ/mol
Vapor pressure ND
Velocity of sound 1590 m/s at 293.15 K
Electronegativity 1.1 (Pauling scale)
Specific heat capacity 150 J/(kg*K)
Electrical conductivity 3.51 106/m ohm
Thermal conductivity 34.9 W/(m*K)
1st ionization potential 603.4 kJ/mol
2nd ionization potential 1174.8 kJ/mol
3rd ionization potential 2417 kJ/mol
4th ionization potential 4203 kJ/mol
Most stable isotopes
iso NA half-life DM DE MeV DP
166Yb {syn.} 56.7 h ε 0.304 166Tm
168Yb 0.13% 168Yb is stable with 98 neutrons
169Yb {syn.} 32.026 d ε 0.909 169Tm
170Yb 3.05% 170Yb is stable with 100 neutrons
171Yb 14.3% 171Yb is stable with 101 neutrons
172Yb 21.9% 172Yb is stable with 102 neutrons
173Yb 16.12% 173Yb is stable with 103 neutrons
174Yb 31.8% 174Yb is stable with 104 neutrons
175Yb {syn.} 4.185 d β- 0.470 175Lu
176Yb 12.7% 176Yb is stable with 106 neutrons
177Yb {syn.} 1.911 h β- 1.399 177Lu
SI units & STP are used except where noted.

Ytterbium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has 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.

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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. Its electrical resistance is tenfold larger at about 39,000 atm but then dramatically drops to around 10% of its room temperature resistivity value at 40,000 atm.


One ytterbium isotope has been used as a radiation source substitute for a portable X-ray machine when electricity was not available. Its metal 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. There are few other uses of this element, e.g. in the form of ions in active laser media.


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 (which was in fact the first rare earth to be discovered).

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 (31.8% natural abundance). 22 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 6 meta states, with the most stable being Yb-169m (t? 46 seconds).

The isotopes of ytterbium range in atomic weight from 150.955 u (Yb-151) to 179.952 u (Yb-180). 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 ytterbium isotopes are able to conform to both Bose-Einstein statistics and Fermi-Dirac statistics making them interesting probes 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.


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