Our Rare Earths
Rare earths are the backbone of many of the devices we use on a daily basis, as well as the technologies that are already contributing to the health of our planet.
Neodymium is a soft silvery white metal which tarnishes and oxidises rapidly in ordinary air. It's current primary use is in neodymium magnets, the strongest permanent magnets in the world able to lift 1,000 times its weight. These magnets are commonly found in speakers, microphones and computer hard drives however the main demand struggling to be met is coming from the automotive industry and the renewable energy industry.
Neodymium magnets are used in the electric motors or hybrid and electric vehicles as well as commercial wind turbines. The electric motor in a Toyota Prius uses approximately 1kg of neodymium in its permanent magnets. Similarly, approximately 1 ton or neodymium is required for every megawatt of generating capacity from a wind turbine.
Neodymium is also used in the production of certain lasers, specifically it is present in the crystals within the laser. Such lasers have multiple applications including in medicine to treat skin cancers and for laser hair removal, for industrial purposes to cut and weld steel, and for military purposes for ranging and targeting.
Praseodymium is a soft silvery metal with a hardness comparable to silver. Similar to Neodymium, Praseodymium is valued for its magnetic, electrical and chemical properties. Praseodymium is applied to many neodymium permanent magnets, able to lift 1,000 times their weight, such as those used in hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines. Praseodymium brings improved corrosion resistance and general durability over pure Neodymium magnets.
Further use to the hybrid and electric vehicle industry comes from praseodymium's inclusion in the nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries commonly used in many models.
One of the more common uses for praseodymium is as an alloying agent. When combined with magnesium it is used in high strength components in various aircraft. It is also an important alloying agent in steel.
Praseodymium is one of the more refractive elements. This is has led it to being used as a doping agent in the fluoride glass of fibre optic cables. The praseodymium acts as an optical amplifier or signal booster. Further uses of its refractive properties include the use of carbon arc lights, commonly used in the movie industry for studio lighting and projection.
Dysprosium is a soft metallic silver metal Dysprosium is a soft metallic silver metal with the highest magnetic strength of the elements. It is commonly used in the neodymium permanent magnets found in hybrid and electric vehicles as well as wind turbines where it aids operation at high temperatures as well as improving the corrosion resistance of the magnets.
Further uses of dysprosium includes the manufacture of laser materials and commercial lighting such as metal halide lamps, and in metal alloys where dysprosium is sometimes used to help channel the inherent ferromagnetism of transition metals such as iron and cobalt.
Terbium is a silvery white metal which is unusually soft, it can be cut with a knife. One of the primary uses for Terbium is in the production of green phosphors for energy efficient display screens and fluorescent lamps.
Neodymium permanent magnets used in hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines make use of terbium to help maintain magnetic properties at high temperatures.