Ytterbium metal is silver-gray, malleable, soft, shiny, and easy to oxidize. It is slowly corroded in the air and soluble in dilute acid and liquid ammonia. It can act slowly with water. The divalent salt is green, soluble in water, and reacts with water to slowly release hydrogen; the trivalent salt is colorless. The oxide is white. A malleable silver-white metal, rich in luster.
Ytterbium is a variable-valence rare earth, in addition to the positive trivalent state, it can also be in a positive bivalent state. Due to this variable price characteristic, the electrolysis method is not suitable for preparing metal ytterbium, but the reduction distillation method is used for preparation and purification. Generally, metallic lanthanum is used as a reducing agent, and the difference between the high vapor pressure of ytterbium metal and the low vapor pressure of lanthanum metal is used for reductive distillation. It is also possible to use thulium, ytterbium and lutetium enrichment as raw materials, use metal lanthanum as a reducing agent, and directly extract metal ytterbium by reduction-distillation under high-temperature vacuum conditions of >1100°C and <0.133Pa. Like samarium and europium, ytterbium can also be separated and purified by wet reduction. Usually the thulium-ytterbium-lutetium-enriched material is used as a raw material, and the ytterbium is reduced to a divalent state after dissolution, and it is separated from other trivalent rare earths after a significant difference in properties. The preparation of high-purity ytterbium oxide usually uses extraction chromatography or ion exchange.
In the nuclear reaction, 169Tm is irradiated to generate 170Tm with a half-life of 129 days. This isotope gram emits strong X-rays. It is often used to produce Ytterbium oxide Yb2O3 by reducing it with calcium. It can also be prepared by distillation (see Europium).
Used in the manufacture of special alloys. Used in metallurgy and chemical experiments, ytterbium alloy has been used in dental medicine.
In recent years, Ytterbium has emerged and developed rapidly in the two major fields of optical fiber communication and laser technology.
Ytterbium is also used as phosphor activator, radio ceramics, electronic computer memory element (magnetic bubble) additives and optical glass additives.