Rare earths are an array of chemical elements within the Earth’s crust that are essential to a lot of modern-day technology, which include electronic devices, desktops and computer networks, communications, renewable energy, advanced transportation, medical care, environmental impact alleviation, national security, among many others.
For their distinctive magnetic, luminescent, along with electrochemical attributes, these elements allow several technologies to function with trimmed weight, lessened polluted discharges and energy use; or offer them increased efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.
Rare earth-powered solutions along with technology facilitate global economic progress, preserve high standards of living, and even save lives.
Seventeen elements have been discovered to belong to this rare earth group—15 of which are in the lanthanide series and the two others share equivalent chemical attributes. These are the following in order of atomic number – N:
Scandium (Sc) – 21
Scandium is a silvery-white metal and a non-lanthanide element. It is mostly used in several well-known consumers products, like televisions and fluorescent or energy-efficient lamps. In industrial sector, the principal use of scandium is to bolster metallic chemical substances. The only targeted sources of this metal presently identified are in rare minerals like thortveitite, euxenite, and gadolinite found in Scandinavia and Madagascar.
Yttrium (Y) – 39
Yttrium is also a non-lanthanide rare earth metal which is used in many essential applications like superconductors, compelling pulsed lasers, cancer medication drugs, rheumatoid arthritis drugs, and surgical supplies. A silvery metal, it is usually used in several well-known consumer products, for example, color televisions and camera lenses.
Lanthanum (La) – 57
Among the most reactive rare earth elements, La is a silver-white metal. It is employed to create special optical glasses, which include glasses that absorbs infrared, camera and telescope lenses, and could also be used to generate steel that is more malleable. Other uses for lanthanum are seen in wastewater treatment and petroleum refining.
Cerium (Ce) – 58
Branded to the Roman deity of agriculture, Ceres, cerium is another silvery-white metal that effortlessly oxidizes in the air. It is extremely plentiful among all the rare earth elements and has numerous uses. For example, cerium oxide is used as a stimulant in catalytic converters in automotive exhaust systems to scale back emissions, and is remarkably attractive for glass polishing accuracy. Additionally, cerium can also be used in iron, magnesium and aluminum alloys, magnets, some types of electrodes, and carbon-arc lighting.
Praseodymium (Pr) – 59
This soft, silvery metal was initially accustomed to produce a yellow-orange stain for ceramics. Though even now employed to color some types of glasses and gemstones, praseodymium is mostly used in rare earth magnets. It can even be found in applications as varied as developing ultra-strong metals which can be found in the engines of aircrafts and in flint for striking fires.
Neodymium (Nd) – 60
Neodymium, another soft, silvery metal, is mixed with praseodymium to generate some of the most powerful everlasting magnets available. These magnets are in most modern-day cars and airplanes, and also in well-known electronic devices like headphones, microphones and computer discs. Neodymium is additionally used to create high-powered, infrared lasers for commercial and security applications.
Promethium (Pm) – 61
It was 45 years after the search for the element with atomic number 61 which began in 1902 that scientists conclusively produced and characterized promethium, which was also named for a persona inside Greek mythology. The only naturally radioactive rare earth element, all promethium in the earth’s crust virtually has decayed into other elements long ago. At this age, it is mostly synthetically designed, and utilized in watches, pacemakers, and in research.
Samarium (Sm) – 62
This specific silvery metal works extremely well in a number of essential ways. One, it is a component of extremely strong magnets used in many transportation, defense, and industrial technologies. Another, combining with other compounds for intravenous radiation treatment, it can destroy cancer cells and is used to medicate lung, prostate, breast and other forms of bone cancer. Due to the fact that it is a stable neutron absorber, samarium is utilized to manage rods of nuclear reactors, adding to their secure use.
Europium (Eu) – 63
Termed after the European continent, europium is a hard metal used to generate visible light in condensed fluorescent bulbs and in color displays. Europium phosphors help lead radiant red to color displays and helped to drive the fame of former generations of color television sets. Amply, it is accustomed to create the special phosphors marks on Euro monetary notes that prevent counterfeiting.
Gadolinium (Gd) – 64
Gadolinium features unique attributes making it especially fitted for crucial operations, like shielding in nuclear reactors and neutron radiography. It can spot tumors in neuron therapy and can enrich magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), helping in the treatment and as well as the diagnosis of cancer. Gadolinium is also used in X-rays and bone density tests, making this rare earth a primary and dominant contributor to modern medical solutions.
Terbium (Tb) – 65
A very soft silvery rare earth metal that can be cut with a knife, terbium is commonly utilized in compact fluorescent lighting, color displays, and as an ingredient to long-lasting rare earth magnets to allow functionality in rather higher temperatures. Found in fuel cells, it is designed to operate at heightened temperatures in some electronic devices and in naval sonar systems. Terbium was first unearthed in 1843 in its alloy form and has the highest magnetostriction of any such compound, that means it adjusts its shape as a result from magnetization over any other alloy. This specific property makes terbium an essential component of Terfenol-D, containing several crucial uses in defense and business technology.
Dysprosium (Dy) – 66
Dysprosium, another soft and silver metal, has one of the highest magnetic strengths of all the elements, equaled only by holmium. Usually combined with permanent rare earth magnets, dysprosium helps the latter operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. Dysprosium is used to create hard computer disks and other electronics that require certain magnetic properties along with lasers and commercial lighting, among many others. This soft metal could also be used in nuclear reactors and in modern-day, energy-saving vehicles.
Holmium (Ho) – 67
It was in 1878 that Holmium was discovered and was then named for the city of Stockholm. Similar with dysprosium, holmium features extraordinary magnetic properties. In fact, a number of the most powerful synthetically designed magnetic fields are the result of magnetic flux concentrators created with holmium alloys. While it provides color to cubic zirconia and glass, holmium works extremely in nuclear control rods and microwave equipment.
Erbium (Er) – 68
Erbium can be found in neutron-absorbing control rods and is another rare earth with nuclear applications. This is an important component of high-performance fiber optic communications systems, and may even be accustomed to give glass and other materials a pink color, which has both artistic and industrial benefits. Erbium also help make lasers, which include some for professional healthcare uses.
Thulium (Tm) – 69
Among the least abundant of rare earth elements is thulium and is a silvery-gray metal. Its isotopes are popularly used as the radiation mechanism in easily transported X-rays, making thulium a highly valuable material. Thulium is additionally a key factor in extremely efficient lasers with various uses in security, medical care and meteorology.
Ytterbium (Yb) – 70
This specific rare earth, coined for a village in Sweden associated with its breakthrough, features numerous significant uses in medical care, which include certain cancer treatments. Ytterbium can also enrich stainless steel and be accustomed to monitor the issues of earthquakes and explosions on the ground.
Lutetium (Lu) – 71
The final element of the rare earth group (in the basic of increasing atomic number) has various exciting uses. For example, lutetium isotopes can facilitate the reveal of the age of ancient things, like meteorites. Additionally, it has applications associated with petroleum refining and positron emission tomography. Under experimentations, lutetium isotopes have been wielded to spot definite types of tumors.
Jointly, the rare earth group of elements are essential to technologies we lean on for security, health and ease and comfort. Each of the rare earth elements contributes to the forward movement of contemporary technology in diverse industries and to promising eureka moments yet to unfold.