Discovered in 1878 by Marignac, ytterbium is one of the three rare earths whose name derives from Ytterby, the Swedish village where many of the rare earths elements were found in minerals in pegmatitic rocks. The others elements are terbium and erbium.
Ytterbium has a bright silvery lustre, is soft, malleable, and quite ductile. A rare earth element, it is easily attacked and dissolved by mineral acids, slowly reacts with water, and oxidizes in air. It is primarily recovered through a solvent extraction processes from clay minerals in China.
APPLICATIONS OF YTTERBIUM
Non-destructive testing: Small amounts of Yb-169, an isotope of ytterbium which emits gamma rays, is used as a radiation source substitute for portable x-ray machines where electricity is not available.
Stainless steel: Ytterbium is used to improve the grain refinement, strength, and other mechanical properties of stainless steel. Some ytterbium alloys have been used in dentistry.
Glasses and Ceramics: Ytterbium is often used as a doping material for high power and wavelength-tunable solid-state lasers. Usually, only low concentrations of ytterbium are used, as at high pulse rates, the ytterbium-doped glass fibre materials show photo-darkening. Ytterbium also used in optical glasses, crystals and ceramics.
Solar cells: Ytterbium is used to convert infrared energy into electricity in solar cells.
LINKS: For chemical and physical properties: www.webelements.com or http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele070.html