Erbium’s claim to fame is two-fold. It amplifies pulses of light without having to convert those pulses into an electrical signal. This amplification virtually revolutionized the communications industry. Thanks to erbium, scientists created fiber optics which ultimately resulted in the invention of HDTV.
Erbium is also the element that makes laser eye surgery possible. Laser is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation.” A tiny (as in microscopic) bit of erbium embedded within a fiber optic cable not only strengthens the intensity of the light, but allows it to travel in the same direction as the light that stimulated its emission, rather than backward toward its origin. Voila, the “erbium fiber amplifier” provides the direction, strength and control required for highly precise laser eye surgery.
Initially I had planned to depict erbium as images of various herbs, reflecting its pronunciation, if not its spelling. However, the properties of the element inspired other images altogether. The only thing that remains of the original concept is the green plant-infused background. Erbium’s optic properties are represented by the waves of the color spectrum while its crystal structure is reflected in the hexagon shapes. The laser beam that originates with holmium completes its journey amplified by erbium and centered on an eye ball. The pink flower vase illustrates the role erbium impurities play in creating shades of pink glass. Its role in the creation of HDTV is referenced with the black frame that surrounds the images.