Pretty in pink…

…and useful in the infrared.

Many of erbium’s uses mostly rely on the characteristic delicate pink colour of its compounds. When added to glass, it gives a pink tinge – useful for sunglasses, imitation gems and photographic filters. Erbium oxide is used as a ceramic glaze.

Aside from the aesthetic, erbium is useful in medicine and telecommunications. Its emission in the infrared at a wavelength absorbed by water and by hydroxyapatite makes it well suited to use in laser surgery and dentistry.

Another emission turns out to be ideal for amplification of the broadband signal in fibre optic cables; without erbium you would not be viewing this page on the internet.

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