The world of Rare Earths: What is Neodymium?

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02/10/2019

The world of Rare Earths: What is Neodymium?

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*This article was originally published on the REE specialized site, Rare Earth Investment News. In BioLantanidos we leave you with part of its translation into Spanish.
Known for being a key material in the manufacture of the most powerful rare earth magnets in the market, Neodymium is undoubtedly an element with which users should be familiar.
Neodymium-iron-boron magnets are used in a wide range of modern technological applications. Below, the Investing News network investigates this mineral and its applications.

A little history

Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach, although its discovery produced some controversy since at that time the metal could not naturally be in its metallic form, since it had to separate from the Didimio (mixture of the elements of Rare earth Neodymium, Praseodymium and Lanthanum).
According to the Royal Chemical Society of the United Kingdom, the above caused skepticism of many chemists who did not know if it was an individual metal or not. Despite this, it was not long until the Neodymium gained due recognition as a particular element. The metal is named after the Greek neos didymos, which means “new twin.”
Neodymium itself is quite common. In fact, it is twice as abundant as Lead and about half as abundant as Copper in the earth’s crust. It is almost always extracted from the minerals Monacita and Bastnasita, although it is also obtained as a by-product of nuclear fission.
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Neodymium Applications

As mentioned above, Neodymium has incredible magnetic properties, and is used to create the most powerful rare earth magnets on the market according to weight and volume. Praseodymium, another element of the Lanthanide series, is also frequently used in these magnets, while Disprosium is added to improve its functionality at higher temperatures.
Neodymium-Iron-Boron magnets have revolutionized many pillars of modern technology, such as mobile phones and computers. In addition, due to the power of magnets even when produced in small sizes, Neodymium has made possible the miniaturization of many electronic products.
To give some examples, the company Apex Magnets reported that Neodymium magnets cause small vibrations of mobile devices when the sound button is silenced, and it is only thanks to the powerful magnetic properties of this element that an MRI can generate a Precise view of the inside of the human body without having to use radiation. The magnets are also used in the graphics of modern televisions, since they greatly improve the quality of the images by directing the electrons to the screen in an orderly manner to give maximum clarity and enhance the color.
Additionally, Neodymium is a key component in wind turbines, which use their magnets to increase turbine power and generate electricity. Metal is commonly found in direct drive turbines. These operate at low speeds, allowing wind farms to create more electricity than traditional turbines, and therefore have greater benefits. Essentially, considering that Neodymium does not weigh much (although it generates a significant amount of force), there are fewer parts involved in the overall design, which makes the turbines more efficient energy producers.
Without a doubt, in addition to the fact that Lanthanides can be grouped together – for example, in Rare Earth Oxides -, Neodymium stands out as an especially important element in relation to the rest.
As long as the demand for alternative energy and electromobility continues to rise, the demand for Neodymium is also expected to remain high.