Characteristics: Ytterbium is a soft, malleable and ductile chemical element that displays a bright silvery metallic luster in its pure form. It is a rare earth element, reacts slowly with water and it is readily attacked and dissolved by mineral acids and liquid ammonia. It oxidizes slowly in air. Ytterbium metal has low toxicity and slowly in oxidizes/ tarnishes in air and under oxygen.
Mining areas are in China, Brazil, the United States, India, Australia and Sri Lanka; and reserves of ytterbium are estimated as one million tonnes. Ytterbium is normally difficult to separate from other rare earths, but ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques developed in the mid- to late 20th century have simplified separation.
Hazards: Ytterbium compounds are known to cause irritation to the human skin and eyes, and some might be teratogenic. Metallic ytterbium dust can spontaneously combust, and the resulting fumes are hazardous. Ytterbium fires cannot be extinguished using water, and only dry chemical class D fire extinguishers can extinguish the fires.