The earth plays host to many elements, of which some have been discovered while some are yet to be discovered. Many years ago, as man continued to explore and exploit his environment, he came to the discovery of some elements showing certain similar behaviors that distinguished them from other elementary elements, and they also propagate similar properties that make them particularly found together within a geologic deposit. Since these elements also comprise properties of metals, they are also known as Rare Earth Metals.
A lot of people may be thrown off into believing that since these metals are termed â€˜Rareâ€™, they may just be very hard to find in the earth crust. But that is not true. The term â€˜Rareâ€™ was not just attached to these elements because they are scarce; in fact they are very much abundant in the earth crust. But the reason of calling them rare is because they are hard to find in commercial quantity around the world, thereby making mining operation for them difficult and very expensive. The most abundant of these elements are Cerium, Yttrium, Lanthanum, and Neodymium. These Rare Earth Metals, according to International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), comprise Yttrium and the other 15 elements of Lanthanide which are; Lanthanum, Neodymium, Praseodymium, Promethium, Cerium, Samarium, Europium, Gadolinium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, and Lutetium. The IUPAC also allows Scandium to be classified as one of the rare earth metals as it is found around deposits of rare earth elements. It is worth knowing that these elements are further classified into Light and Heavy rare earth metals with the first six, beginning with Lanthanum, classified as Light rare earth elements, while the rest are the Heavy ones. Although Yttrium is said to be lighter that the Light Rare Earth Elements, it is classified as one of the Heavy rare earth metals because it shares same chemical and physical properties with them.
The uses of these metals have never been in demand since they were discovered as they are in the now. Because of their peculiar characteristics rare earth elements find useful application in both home used electronic appliances and military appliances too. They find application in rechargeable batteries too. The following are samples of application of rare earth metals.
1. Neodymium is used all over the world to make the most powerful magnets used for making turbines, hybrid cars, and electronics.
2. Your computer hard drives, smart phones, and TV screens play host to rare earth metals too.
3. Rare earth metals also support green technology to military hardware, and they are used to make night vision goggles. Rare earth metals too are used by the military in making very hard alloys which are then put into constructing armored vehicles. Military radar, lasers, aircraft electronics, satellite, and missile-guided systems are made using rare earth metals.
4. Light Emitting Diode made light bulbs are produced using Europium. The same rare earth metal is also used in making the red color we see in TV monitors too.
The world leading miners, refiners and exporters of rare earth elements is China. Although the US and some other countries had rare earth metal plants bubbling some years ago, the price at which China was selling these metals was so cheap that these other plants went low leaving China to shoulder the responsibility of making over 95% provision of rare earth metal for world use.