Erbium is a silver-white metal; melting point is 1529°C, boiling
point is 2863°C, density is 9.006g/cm3; Erbium is antiferromagnetic at
low temperatures, strong ferromagnetism near absolute zero, and a
Erbium is slowly oxidized by air and water at room temperature, and erbium oxide is rose red.
Erbium can be used as a reactor control material; Erbium can also be used as an activator for some fluorescent materials. The first ionization energy is 6.10 electron volts. The chemical and physical properties of holmium and dysprosium are almost identical.
The oxide Er2O3 is rose red, which is used to make pottery glaze. Erbium oxide is used in the ceramic industry to produce a pink enamel. Erbium also has some applications in the nuclear industry and can also be used as an alloy component of other metals. For example, adding erbium to vanadium can enhance its ductility.
The most prominent use of erbium is to manufacture Erbium Dopant Fiber Amplifier (EDFA). Erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) was first developed by the University of Southampton in 1985. It is one of the greatest inventions in optical fiber communication, and it can even be said to be the "gas station" of today's long-distance information highway. Erbium-doped fiber is a silica fiber doped with a small amount of rare earth element erbium ions (Er3+), which is the core of the amplifier. The principle of erbium-doped fiber amplifying optical signals is: when Er3+ is excited by light with a wavelength of 980nm or 1480nm to absorb the energy of the pump light, it transitions from the ground state to the high-level pump state. Due to the short lifetime of the particles in the pumped state, they will quickly relax from the pumped state to the metastable state in a non-radiative manner. The particles will have a longer lifetime in this energy and gradually accumulate. When 1550nm signal light passes through, the metastable Er3+ ion transitions to the ground state in the form of stimulated radiation, and it also emits light with a wavelength of 1550nm. This light emitted when jumping from the high-energy state to the ground state supplements the signal light with attenuation loss, so that the signal light is continuously amplified with attenuation during the propagation of the optical fiber.
Doping erbium into ordinary silica fiber, coupled with a semiconductor laser with two wavelengths of 980 nm or 1480 nm, basically constitutes an amplifier that directly amplifies the 1550 nm optical signal. Quartz optical fiber can transmit light of different wavelengths, but the light attenuation rate is different. The light attenuation rate of 1550nm band is the lowest (only 0.15 dB/km) when transmitted in the quartz fiber, and the attenuation rate is almost the lower limit. Therefore, when optical fiber communication uses light with a wavelength of 1550 nm as signal light, the light loss is minimal. Therefore, as long as the optical fiber is doped with tens to hundreds of ppm of erbium, it can play a role in compensating the optical loss in the communication system. The erbium-doped fiber amplifier is like an optical "pumping station", which enables the optical signal to be transmitted from one station to another without any loss, thus smoothly opening the technical channel of modern long-distance large-capacity high-speed optical fiber communication.
Another application hot spot of erbium is laser, especially as a medical laser material. Erbium laser is a solid-state pulsed laser with a wavelength of 2940nm, which can be strongly absorbed by water molecules in human tissues, so that it can achieve greater results with less energy, and can cut, grind and excise soft tissues very accurately. Erbium YAG laser is also used for cataract removal. Because the main component of the cataract lens is water, the erbium laser has low energy and is easily absorbed by water. It will be a promising surgical method for cataract removal. Erbium laser treatment instrument is opening up more and more broad application fields for laser surgery.
Erbium can also be used as an active ion for rare earth up-conversion laser materials. Erbium laser up-conversion materials are divided into single crystal (fluoride, oxygen-containing salt) and glass (fiber), such as erbium-doped yttrium aluminate (YAP: Er3+) crystal and Er3+-doped ZBLAN fluoride (ZrF4- BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF) glass optical fiber, etc., have now been put into practical use. BaYF5: Yb3+, Er3+ can convert infrared into visible light. This multiphoton up-conversion luminescent material has been successfully used in night vision devices.