Rare Earth Element (REE)
About "Rare Earth Elements":
Rare Earth Elements (REE) are minerals that are actually not so rare. They're actually common in the earth's crust but it is rare in a large enough concentrations to be mined. It is always found in a combination of many other minerals. Therefore, it is very difficult to mine and only possible mining to a few locations. Almost 95% of the world rare earths are mined now in China.
There are 17 minerals that are considered rare earth elements. Usually, only one or two rare earths are found in mineable quantities in any particular mineral deposit. Each rare earth element requires different chemical processing before it can be used to make products. The particular element must be 99.99% pure. The chemistry is very complex, and there are anywhere from dozens to hundreds of steps in the purification process, each with its own waste stream.
Rare earths are not found alone. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (2010), "The ores of rare earth elements are mineralogically and chemically complex and commonly radioactive. The principal deleterious impurity in REE-bearing minerals is thorium, which imparts an unwanted radioactivity to the ores." Rare Earth Elements, in other words, leave radioactive wastes, just like uranium mining.
The three largest known mineable deposits of rare earths in the United States are at Mountain Pass, CA (pictured), the Bokan Mountains in Alaska, and the Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming, about six miles northwest of Sundance off Highway 14.
A Canadian company named Rare Element Resources wants to dig an open pit mine at the Bear Lodge deposit, which may also contain gold. The Bear Lodge deposit contains more thorium, a radioactive mineral, than most rare earths deposits. The company admits that rare earths deposits are "environmentally challenging due to thorium content." The thorium could either be processed and used, or left as wastes.
Rare Element Resources has a permit to explore on 200 acres at Bull Hill. It has 80 federal claims, plus a state lease. There's lots of other rare earth element exploration in the area.
There is an additional concern at the proposed Bear Lodge project. An old nuclear reactor is at the project site. No mining or blasting is allowed near the old reactor, due to safety concerns. But the buffer zone for the reactor goes to within 1,000 feet of the Bull Hill site.
Rare earth elements mining may become a regional issue. They are found at high levels in other locations around the Black Hills.
Few Interesting Facts about Rare Earth Elements:
- Rare earth magnets are used in wind turbines. Some large turbines require two TONS of rare earth magnets. These magnets are very strong and make the turbines highly efficient. Rare earth magnets are used in turbines and generators in many alternative energy applications.
- Prices and demand for rare earth materials have risen dramatically over the past decade. China produces about 90% of the supply. Deposits in Australia and the United States are going back into operation, and exploration in many new areas is progressing.
- Every hybrid-electric and electric vehicle has a large battery. Each battery is made using several pounds of rare earth compounds. The use of electric vehicles is expected to increase rapidly, driven by energy independence, climate change and other concerns. This will increase the demand for rare earth materials.
- Tiny amounts of rare earth metals are used in most small electronic devices. These devices have a short lifespan, and REE recycling is infrequently done. Billions are thrown away each year.
- Most of the scandium used in the United States goes into aluminum-alloy baseball bats and other sports equipment (3). Scandium is also used in semiconductors and specialty lighting.
- Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.
- Many rechargeable batteries are made with rare earth compounds. Demand for the batteries is being driven by demand for portable electronic devices such as cell phones, readers, portable computers, and cameras.
- Several pounds of rare earth compounds are in batteries that power every electric vehicle and hybrid-electric vehicle. As concerns for energy independence, climate change and other issues drive the sale of electric and hybrid vehicles, the demand for batteries made with rare earth compounds will climb even faster.
- Rare earths are used as catalysts, phosphors, and polishing compounds. These are used for air pollution control, illuminated screens on electronic devices, and the polishing of optical-quality glass. All of these products are expected to experience rising demand.
- Because of their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these elements help make many technologies perform with reduced weight, emissions, and energy consumption, and give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.
- REE are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures, and phosphors. These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power.
- Rare earth elements play an essential role in our national defense. The military uses night-vision goggles, precision-guided weapons, communications equipment, GPS equipment, batteries and other defense electronics. These give the United States military an enormous advantage. Rare earth metals are key ingredients for making the very hard alloys used in armored vehicles and projectiles that shatter upon impact.
- Substitutes can be used for rare earth elements in some defense applications; however, those substitutes are usually not as effective and that diminishes military superiority.
- Rare earth-enabled products and technologies help to fuel global economic growth, maintain high standards of living, and save lives.
|REY||Rare-Earth Elements and Yttrium|
|LREE||Light Rare Earth Elements
(Sc, La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Pm, Sm, Eu, and Gd; also known as the cerium group)
|HREE||Heavy Rare Earth Elements
(Y, Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, and Lu; also known as the yttrium group)
Rare Earth Elements and their symbols:
What Elements are in The Rare Earth Elements?
Rare earths are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust that are vital to many modern technologies, including consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, clean energy, advanced transportation, health care, environmental mitigation, national defense, and many others.
Because of their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these elements help make many technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; or give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.
There are 17 elements that are considered to be rare earth elements—15 elements in the lanthanide series and two additional elements that share similar chemical properties.
They are listed below in order of atomic number (Z):
Scandium or Sc (21)
Scandium, a silvery-white metal, is a non-lanthanide rare earth. It is used in many popular consumer products, such as televisions and fluorescent or energy-saving lamps. In industry, the primary use of scandium is to strengthen metal compounds. The only concentrated sources of scandium currently known are in rare minerals such as thortveitite, euxenite, and gadolinite from Scandinavia and Madagascar.
Yttrium or Y (39)
Yttrium is a non-lanthanide rare earth element used in many vital applications, such as superconductors, powerful pulsed lasers, cancer treatment drugs, rheumatoid arthritis medicines, and surgical supplies. A silvery metal, it is also used in many popular consumer products, such as color televisions and camera lenses.
Lanthanum or La (57)
This silver-white metal is one of the most reactive rare earth elements. It is used to make special optical glasses, including infrared absorbing glass, camera and telescope lenses, and can also be used to make steel more malleable. Other applications for lanthanum include wastewater treatment and petroleum refining.
Cerium or Ce (58)
Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, cerium is a silvery-white metal that easily oxidizes in the air. It is the most abundant of the rare earth elements and has many uses. For instance, cerium oxide is used as a catalyst in catalytic converters in automotive exhaust systems to reduce emissions, and is highly desirable for precision glass polishing. Cerium can also be used in iron, magnesium and aluminum alloys, magnets, certain types of electrodes, and carbon-arc lighting.
Praseodymium or Pr (59)
This soft, silvery metal was first used to create a yellow-orange stain for ceramics. Although still used to color certain types of glasses and gemstones, praseodymium is primarily used in rare earth magnets. It can also be found in applications as diverse as creating high-strength metals found in aircraft engines and in flint for starting fires.
Neodymium or Nd (60)
Another soft, silvery metal, neodymium is used with praseodymium to create some of the strongest permanent magnets available. Such magnets are found in most modern vehicles and aircraft, as well as popular consumer electronics such as headphones, microphones and computer discs. Neodymium is also used to make high-powered, infrared lasers for industrial and defense applications.
Promethium or Pm (61)
Although the search for the element with atomic number 61 began in 1902, it was not until 1947 that scientists conclusively produced and characterized promethium, which is named for a character in Greek mythology. It is the only naturally radioactive rare earth element, and virtually all promethium in the earth’s crust has long ago decayed into other elements. Today, it is largely artificially created, and used in watches, pacemakers, and in scientific research.
Samarium or Sm (62)
This silvery metal can be used in several vital ways. First, it is part of very powerful magnets used in many transportation, defense, and commercial technologies. Second, in conjunction with other compounds for intravenous radiation treatment it can kill cancer cells and is used to treat lung, prostate, breast and some forms of bone cancer. Because it is a stable neutron absorber, samarium is used to control rods of nuclear reactors, contributing to their safe use.
Europium or Eu (63)
Named for the continent of Europe, europium is a hard metal used to create visible light in compact fluorescent bulbs and in color displays. Europium phosphors help bring bright red to color displays and helped to drive the popularity of early generations of color television sets. Fittingly, it is used to make the special phosphors marks on Euro notes that prevent counterfeiting.
Gadolinium or Gd (64)
Gadolinium has particular properties that make it especially suited for important functions, such as shielding in nuclear reactors and neutron radiography. It can target tumors in neuron therapy and can enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), assisting in both the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. X-rays and bone density tests can also use gadolinium, making this rare earth element a major contributor to modern health care solutions.
Terbium or Tb (65)
This silvery rare earth metal is so soft it can be cut with a knife. Terbium is often used in compact fluorescent lighting, color displays, and as an additive to permanent rare earth magnets to allow them to function better under higher temperatures. It can be found in fuel cells designed to operate at elevated temperatures, in some electronic devices and in naval sonar systems. Discovered in 1843, terbium in its alloy form has the highest magnetostriction of any such substance, meaning it changes its shape due to magnetization more than any other alloy. This property makes terbium a vital component of Terfenol-D, which has many important uses in defense and commercial technologies.
Dysprosium or Dy (66)
Another soft, silver metal, dysprosium has one of the highest magnetic strengths of the elements, matched only by holmium. Dysprosium is often added to permanent rare earth magnets to help them operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. Lasers and commercial lighting can use dysprosium, which may also be used to create hard computer disks and other electronics that require certain magnetic properties. Dysprosium may also be used in nuclear reactors and modern, energy-efficient vehicles.
Holmium or Ho (67)
Holmium was discovered in 1878 and named for the city of Stockholm. Along with dysprosium, holmium has incredible magnetic properties. In fact, some of the strongest artificially created magnetic fields are the result of magnetic flux concentrators made with holmium alloys. In addition to providing coloring to cubic zirconia and glass, holmium can be used in nuclear control rods and microwave equipment.
Erbium or Er (68)
Another rare earth with nuclear applications, erbium can be found in neutron-absorbing control rods. It is a key component of high-performance fiber optic communications systems, and can also be used to give glass and other materials a pink color, which has both aesthetic and industrial purposes. Erbium can also help create lasers, including some used for medical purposes.
Thulium or Tm (69)
A silvery-gray metal, thulium is one of the least abundant rare earths. Its isotopes are widely used as the radiation device in portable X-rays, making thulium a highly useful material. Thulium is also a component of highly efficient lasers with various uses in defense, medicine and meteorology.
Ytterbium or Yb (70)
This element, named for a village in Sweden associated with its discovery, has several important uses in health care, including in certain cancer treatments. Ytterbium can also enhance stainless steel and be used to monitor the effects of earthquakes and explosions on the ground.
Lutetium or Lu (71)
The last of the rare earth elements (in order of their atomic number) has several interesting uses. For instance, lutetium isotopes can help reveal the age of ancient items, like meteorites. It also has applications related to petroleum refining and positron emission tomography. Experimentally, lutetium isotopes have been used to target certain types of tumors.
Collectively, the rare earth elements contribute to vital technologies we rely on today for safety, health and comfort. All of the rare earth elements contribute to the advancement of modern technologies and to promising discoveries yet to come.
Why is this happening now?
China, where most rare earths mining has been occurring, has stopped exporting rare earths. This means that manufacturing that uses rare earths must be done in China and by Chines Manufactures. This has driven the current growth in exploration in other countries.
Developing a rare earth element mine is difficult and expensive - ten times as expensive as developing a normal open pit mine. But because only a small amount of each element is used in each type of product, we don't need a lot of rare earths mines. The first few mines that begin production will meet world demand for some time. As one mining researcher put it, "85% of the [rare earths] activity is 95% hype," and most exploration will never lead to a mine.
There is another problem in getting a rare earths operation up and running. This is that, outside China, the very specialized knowledge needed to mine and process Rare Earth Elements is limited. Few people know how to do this type of mining and processing - much less how to do it safely.
So it is quite possible that there will be no need for the Bear Lodge mine. And it is likely that such a small company will not have the expertise to produce usable rare earth elements. But the company has a motivation to get the mine dug anyway - it would make money for the people who work for the company. This makes it imperative that we make it clear that we oppose the project now. If mining does start, and then there's no demand for rare earths, our area will be scarred and polluted, and our local economy will be disrupted by a project that's not needed.
China is the dominant supplier of Rare Earth Elements:
China currently supplies 95 percent of global rare earth metal demand. China’s dominant position as the producer of the world output of rare-earth minerals and rapid increases in the consumption of rare earths owing to the emergence of new clean-energy and defense-related technologies, combined with China’s decisions to restrict exports of rare earths, have resulted in heightened concerns about the future availability of rare earths. As a result, industrial countries such as Japan, the United States, and countries of the European Union face tighter supplies and higher prices for rare earths.
In 2005, it began restricting exports to preserve resources and protect the environment, causing prices to soar. Today, the United States is 100 percent dependent on imports for rare earth metals. From the mid-1960s through the 1980s, however, Molycorp’s Mountain Pass mine in California was the world’s main source of rare earth metals. As the U.S. share of rare earth metal production declined, China used government support, research and development, training programs, cheap labor and low prices to develop its supply chain, increasing its share of rare earth metal production from 27 percent in 1990 to 97 percent in 2011. In March, the U.S., Japan and the European Union lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization over China’s limits on rare earth exports. In response, China announced that it will export 30,996 more metric tons of rare earth metals in 2012 than it did in 2011.
The 15 lanthanide elements—lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium (atomic numbers 57–71)—were originally known as the rare earths from their occurrence in oxides mixtures. Recently, some researchers have included two other elements—scandium and yttrium—in their discussion of rare earths. Yttrium (atomic number 39), which lies above lanthanum in transition group III of the periodic table and has a similar 3+ ion with a noble gas core, has both atomic and ionic radii similar in size to those of terbium and dysprosium and is generally found in nature with lanthanides. Scandium (atomic number 21) has a smaller ionic radius than yttrium and the lanthanides, and its chemical behavior is intermediate between that of aluminum and the lanthanides. It is found in nature with the lanthanides and yttrium.
The U.S., South Africa, Canada, Australia, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, and Malawi also have deposits of rare earth metals, and while the U.S. Geological Survey expects that global reserves and as yet undiscovered deposits of rare earth metals will be able to meet future demand, new mines may take up to 10 years to develop, and resources in remote areas will likely be much more difficult to extract.
To ease the bottleneck of rare earth metals, mines being developed in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Vietnam could be in production within five years. The Molycorp mine in Mountain Pass has reopened and expects to be operating at full capacity this year.
China’s Resources of Rare Earths:
China is rich in rare earth resources and produces a number of different kinds of rare earth products. China’s scientists discovered rare earth resources in Bayan Obo in 1927 and started the production of rare-earth concentrates in 1957. After more than 8 decades of exploration, rare-earth resources have been discovered in 21 of China’s Provinces and Autonomous Regions Fujian, Gansu,Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol,Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Yunnan, and Zhejiang.
As of 1998, the country’s total rare-earth resource was reported to be 92 million metric tons (Mt) (Wen, 1998, p. 140). In 2009, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) reported that the country had rare-earth reserves of 18.6 Mt in rare earth oxide (REO) content (China National Bureau of Statistics, 2010, p. 410).
China’s Production of Rare Earths:
China’s main rare -earth production takes place in the Provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Sichuan and in Nei Mongol Autonomous Region. Nei Mongol accounted for between 50 percent and 60 percent of China’s total rare-earth concentrate output during the past decade. Sichuan Province was the second leading rare earth concentrate producer, accounting for between 24 percent and 30 percent of production during the past decade. The remaining output was from the Provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, and Jiangxi, which are important for their production of “heavy” rare earths (Chen, 2010 ; Geological Publishing House, 2010).
Between 1990 and 2000, China’s production increased over 450 percent to 73,000 metric tons (t) from about 16,000 t (fig. 1). During the same period, production from other countries declined almost 60 percent to about 16,000 t from 44,000 t. As a result, world production increased just over 150 percent to almost 91,000 t from about 60,000 t between 1990 and 2000. Since 2000, world and Chinese production have continued to increase; by 2009, world production increased 45 percent to about 132,000 t, and Chinese production increased 77 percent to 129,000 t. Production from other countries decreased to about 3,000 t in 2009.
The volume of China’s rare earth output as a percentage of total world output increased to more than 90 percent in 2008 from 27 percent in 1990. During the past 15 years, China has supplied more than 80 percent of the world’s rare earths as concentrates, intermediate products, and chemicals.
Although Chinese production expanded rapidly, China’s rare-earth producers reportedly have struggled to maintain profitability. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Government and rare-earth producers had met and discussed ways to control production and exports as a means of conserving the country’s mineral resources and protecting the environment. Nevertheless, competition among local governments and enterprises resulted in sustained high levels of production. Local governments depended upon rare-earth producers to provide employment and revenue for local economic development and did not always follow the national Government’s guidelines on rare earths. As a result, the country’s actual output of rare earth concentrate continued to exceed the Government’s production target (China State Council,2006). Since 2006, the Government has stepped up enforcement of its policies and regulations and shut down illegal mines in the Provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Sichuan. Consequently, production of rare earths has been approximately level during the past 5 years.
Rare Earth Elements in the U.S.:
Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.
This estimate of domestic rare earth deposits is part of a larger report that includes a review of global sources for REE, information on known deposits that might provide domestic sources of REE in the future, and geologic information crucial for studies of the availability of REE to U.S. industry.
The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.
Hard-rock deposits yield the most economically exploitable concentrations of REE. USGS researchers also analyzed two other types of REE deposits: placer and phosphorite deposits. Placer deposits are alluvial formations of sandy sediments, which often contain concentrations of heavy, dense minerals, some containing REE. Phosphorite deposits, which mostly occur in the southeastern U.S., contain large amounts of phosphate-bearing minerals. These phosphates can yield yttrium and lanthanum, which are also REE.
95% of REE produced globally now comes from China. New REE mines are being developed in Australia, and projects exploring the feasibility of economically developing additional REE deposits are under way in the United States, Australia, and Canada; successful completion of these projects could help meet increasing demand for REE, the report said.
Environmental Degradation And Human Health Hazards
More mining of rare earth metals, however, will mean more environmental degradation and human health hazards. All rare earth metals contain radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium, which can contaminate air, water, soil and groundwater. Metals such as arsenic, barium, copper, aluminum, lead and beryllium may be released during mining into the air or water, and can be toxic to human health. Moreover, the refinement process for rare earth metals uses toxic acids and results in polluted wastewater that must be properly disposed of. The Chinese Society of Rare Earths estimated that the refinement of one ton of rare earth metals results in 75 cubic meters of acidic wastewater and one ton of radioactive residue. The 1998 leak of hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive wastewater into a nearby lake was a contributing factor to Molycorp’s shutdown in 2002. Many new mines, including Molycorp, are now developing more environmentally friendly mining techniques.
Applications of the Rare Earth Elements:
The diverse nuclear, metallurgical, chemical, catalytic, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties of the REE have led to an ever increasing variety of applications.
Many applications of REE are characterized by high specificity and high unit value. For example, color cathode-ray tubes and liquid-crystal displays used in computer monitors and televisions employ europium as the red phosphor; no substitute is known.
Fiber-optic telecommunication cables provide much greater bandwidth than the copper wires and cables they have largely replaced. Fiber-optic cables can transmit signals over long distances because they incorporate periodically spaced lengths of erbium-doped fiber that function as laser amplifiers. Er is used in these laser repeaters, despite its high cost (~$700/kg), because it alone possesses the required optical properties.
Specificity is not limited to the more exotic REE, such as Eu or Er. Cerium, the most abundant and least expensive REE, has dozens of applications, some highly specific. For example, Ce oxide is uniquely suited as a polishing agent for glass. The polishing action of CeO2 depends on both its physical and chemical properties, including the two accessible oxidation states of cerium, Ce,3+ and Ce4+, in aqueous solution. Virtually all polished glass products, from ordinary mirrors and eyeglasses to precision lenses, are finished with CeO2.
Permanent magnet technology has been revolutionized by alloys containing Nd, Sm, Gd, Dy, or Pr. Small, lightweight, high-strength REE magnets have allowed miniaturization of numerous electrical and electronic components used in appliances, audio and video equipment, computers, automobiles, communications systems, and military gear. Many recent technological innovations already taken for granted (for example, miniaturized multi-gigabyte portable disk drives and DVD drives) would not be possible without REE magnets.
Environmental applications of REE have increased markedly over the past three decades. This trend will undoubtedly continue, given growing concerns about global warming and energy efficiency. Several REE are essential constituents of both petroleum fluid cracking catalysts and automotive pollution-control catalytic converters. Use of REE magnets reduces the weight of automobiles. Widespread adoption of new energy-efficient fluorescent lamps (using Y, La, Ce, Eu, Gd, and Tb) for institutional lighting could potentially achieve reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing one-third of the automobiles currently on the road. Large-scale application of magnetic-refrigeration technology (described below) also could significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
In many applications, REE are advantageous because of their relatively low toxicity. For example, the most common types of rechargeable batteries contain either cadmium (Cd) or lead. Rechargeable lanthanum-nickel-hydride (La-Ni-H) batteries are gradually replacing Ni-Cd batteries in computer and communications applications and could eventually replace lead-acid batteries in automobiles. Although more expensive, La-Ni-H batteries offer greater energy density, better charge-discharge characteristics, and fewer environmental problems upon disposal or recycling. As another example, red and red-orange pigments made with La or Ce are superseding traditional commercial pigments containing Cd or other toxic heavy metals.
The next high-technology application of the REE to achieve maturity may be magnetic refrigeration. The six REE ions Gd3+ through Tm3+ have unusually large magnetic moments, owing to their several unpaired electrons. A newly developed alloy, Gd5(Si2Ge2), with a “giant magne-tocaloric effect” near room temperature reportedly will allow magnetic refrigeration to become competitive with conventional gas-compression refrigeration. This new technology could be employed in refrigerators, freezers, and residential, commercial, and automotive air conditioners. Magnetic refrigeration is considerably more efficient than gas-compression refrigeration and does not require refrigerants that are flammable or toxic, deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, or contribute to global warming.
Rare earth elements are used extensively in these industries:
Aerospace and Defense
Rare earth elements are indispensable in many electronic, optical and magnetic applications. Rare earth magnets are incredibly powerful; some can retain their magnetic strength at high-temperatures, making them ideal for commercial and aerospace applications. Rare earth elements are also used for lasers and resolution technologies. These technologies are critical to modern aerospace systems.
Lanthanum night-vision goggles
Neodymium laser range-finders, guidance systems, communications
Europium fluorescents and phosphors in lamps and monitors
Erbium amplifiers in fiber-optic data transmission
Samarium permanent magnets that are stable at high temperatures
Samarium precision-guided weapons
Samarium "white noise" production in stealth technology
Rare earth permanent magnets have facilitated an evolution in health and medical technology. They produce a powerful magnetic field used in medical imaging devices, such as MRIs, that enable doctors to diagnose illnesses that otherwise would be much harder to detect. Rare earth elements are also used in many modern surgical machines, such as those for robot-assisted surgeries. They are used in pioneering technologies, such as cochlear implants. Yttrium is used in solid state lasers and in cancer-treating drugs. They are essential to modern medicine.
Rare earth elements are used in many advanced energy technologies, including wind turbines, electric car batteries and energy-efficient lights, which help to reduce CO2 and other emissions Rare earth elements are essential to both compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs), LED lighting and fiber optics. One emerging technology using rare earth magnets, magnetic refrigeration, could potentially improve the energy efficiency of refrigerators for home and commercial use. Rare earths are critical to our new energy technologies.
Rare earth elements enable faster, smaller, and lighter products such as cell phones and computer hard drives. They make color displays more vivid in televisions, computer screens, and other devices. They are also important for in-ear headphones, microphones, loudspeakers, optical fibers, smartphones, and tablet computers. They enable us to continually improve our communications and computing capabilities.
Transportation and Vehicles
Rare earth magnets have many uses in automobiles, especially in new generation vehicles designed to reduce energy consumption. For instance, they are used in the electric motors of many hybrid cars and electric vehicles and in batteries to help power them. They are found in catalytic converters in cars and can help reduce harmful air pollutants.
Chemicals, Oil Refining and Manufacturing
Rare earths are vital in many chemical and manufacturing processes. They make the refining of crude oil into gasoline more efficient and are used in many specialty metal alloys. They are critical to these industries worldwide.
Uses of Rare Earth Elements:
100 percent of heavy rare earth metals such as terbium and dysprosium, used in wind turbines.
Military (guidance systems)
Computer monitors and flat-panel TVs (the color red)
Rechargeable batteries (including electric cars)
High-strength magnets (including electric cars)
Fiber optic cables
Fluorescent light bulbs
Nuclear industry (control rods and shields)