(Tb), chemical element, rare-earth metal of the lanthanoid series of the periodic table. One of the least abundant of the rare earths, terbium, when reduced to metallic form, is silvery white and is slowly oxidized by air at room temperatures and by cold water. The element was discovered in 1843 by Carl Gustaf Mosander in a heavy rare-earth fraction called yttria, but its existence was not confirmed for at least 30 years, and pure compounds were not prepared until 1905. Terbium occurs in many rare-earth minerals but is almost exclusively obtained as a by-product from monazite sands, which are a source of thorium. It is also found in the products of nuclear fission. Ion-exchange techniques are utilized for its commercial production. The metal is prepared in a highly pure form by thermoreduction of the anhydrous fluoride with calcium metal. At room temperature the atoms of the pure element adopt the hexagonal close-packed structure. The only isotope occurring in ores is terbium-159. About 20 radioactive artificial isotopes have been prepared, such as terbium-160 (73-day half-life). Sodium terbium borate as a laser material emits coherent light at 5,460 angstroms. In certain solid-state devices terbium is used to dope calcium fluoride, calcium tungstate, and strontium molybdate.
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