Terbium (chemical symbol Tb, atomic number 65) is a silvery-white rare earth metal.1


Terbium is never found in nature as the free element, but it is contained in many minerals. For instance, it occurs in cerite, gadolinite, monazite ((Ce,La,Th,Nd,Y)PO4, which contains up to 0.03 percent of terbium), xenotime (YPO4) and euxenite ((Y,Ca,Er,La,Ce,U,Th)(Nb,Ta,Ti)2O6, which contains one percent or more of terbium).


Terbium was discovered in 1843 by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander, who detected it as an impurity in Yttrium-oxide, Y2O3, and named after the village Ytterby in Sweden. It was not isolated in pure form until the recent advent of ion exchange techniques.

Terbium is classified as a rare earth element. The term "rare" is misleading because terbium is more common than metals such as silver and mercury. The name "rare earth" meant something else to early chemists. It was used because the rare earth elements were very difficult to separate from each other. They were not "rare" in the Earth, but they were "rarely" used for anything.

Notable characteristics

Terbium is an inner transition metal (or lanthanide) that lies in period six of the periodic table, between gadolinium and dysprosium. It is malleable, ductile, and soft enough to be cut with a knife. It is reasonably stable in air, and two crystal allotropes exist, with a transformation temperature of 1,289 °C.


Naturally occurring terbium is composed of one stable isotope, 159-Tb. 33 radioisotopes have been characterized, with the most stable being 158-Tb with a half-life of 180 years, 157-Tb with a half-life of 71 years, and 160-Tb with a half-life of 72.3 days. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lifes that are less than 6.907 days, and the majority of these have half lifes that are less than 24 seconds. This element also has 18 meta states, with the most stable being 156m1-Tb (t½ 24.4 hours), 154m2-Tb (t½ 22.7 hours) and 154m1-Tb (t½ 9.4 hours).

The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, 159-Tb, is electron capture, and the primary mode after is beta minus decay. The primary decay products before 159-Tb are element Gd (gadolinium) isotopes, and the primary products after are element Dy (dysprosium) isotopes.


Terbium compounds include:

  • Fluorides
    • TbF3
    • TbF4
  • Chlorides
    • TbCl3
  • Bromides
    • TbBr3
  • Iodides
    • TbI3
  • Oxides
    • Tb2O3
    • Tb4O7
  • Sulfides
    • Tb2S3
  • Nitrides
    • TbN

See also terbium compounds.


  • Terbium is used to dope calcium fluoride, calcium tungstate, and strontium molybdate, which are used in solid-state devices. Also, sodium terbium borate is used in solid state devices.
  • Terbium is a crystal stabilizer of fuel cells that operate at elevated temperatures, together with zirconium(IV) oxide (ZrO2).
  • Terbium is used in alloys for the production of electronic devices.
  • Its oxide is used in green phosphors in fluorescent lamps and color TV tubes.


As with the other lanthanides, terbium compounds are of low to moderate toxicity, although their toxicity has not been investigated in detail. Terbium has no known biological role.

See also


  1. ↑ The term "rare earth metals" (or "rare earth elements") is a trivial name applied to 16 chemical elements: scandium, yttrium, and 14 of the 15 lanthanides (excluding promethium), which occur naturally on Earth. Some definitions also include the actinides. The word "earth" is an obsolete term for oxide. The term "rare earth" is discouraged by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), as these elements are relatively abundant in the Earth's crust.


  • Chang, Raymond. Chemistry. 9th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math, 2006. ISBN 0073221031
  • Cotton, F. Albert, and Geoffrey Wilkinson. Advanced Inorganic Chemistry. 4th ed. New York: Wiley, 1980. ISBN 0-471-02775-8
  • Greenwood, N.N. and A. Earnshaw. Chemistry of the Elements. 2nd ed. Oxford, U.K.; Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevier Science, 1998. ISBN 0750633654 Online version Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  • Jones, Adrian P., Frances Wall, and C. Terry Williams, eds. Rare Earth Minerals: Chemistry, Origin and Ore Deposits. The Mineralogical Society Series. London, UK: Chapman and Hall, 1996. ISBN 0412610302
  • Stwertka, Albert. Guide to the Elements. Rev. ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-508083-1
  • "Terbium" Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chemistry Division, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2007.

External links

All links retrieved November 19, 2015.