Science

Scarce gems on Earth! What are rare earth elements form and what are they used for

These two elements are commonly used in various electronic devices and industrial applications.

The 15 elements in the periodic table of elements are known as the lanthanide series. Although they are not truly rare earth elements, the yttrium and scandium can be considered as part of this group due to their similar properties

The 15 elements in the lanthanide series include praseodymium, holmium, terbium, and gadolinium. Also, scandium and yttrium are found in various rare earth element deposits.

These elements are often found in geological deposits. Due to their chemical properties, they can be commonly found in these types of deposits. However, their magnetic and electronic properties are unique to each metal, which makes them incredibly versatile.

Where are they found and produced?

Despite the abundance of rare earth elements, only a few countries have the necessary reserves to produce enough of these metals for their production.

According to estimates, the global reserves of rare earth elements are expected to reach around 120 million metric tons by 2020. China is currently the world’s largest producer of rare earth elements with 44 million metric tons of reserves. Other countries such as India and Russia have around 6 million and 7 million respectively.

Some of the other countries that have significant reserves of rare earth elements include South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

Are they really ‘rare’?

Although their names imply that they are rare, the elements are actually relatively abundant in Earth’s crust.

According to the USGS, the more abundant rare earth elements are similar in their crustal concentration to common industrial metals such as lead, copper, nickel, and chromium. The USGS also noted that even the two least abundant rare earth elements, which are known as Lu and Tm, are more common than gold.

The main difference between rare earth elements and ordinary base metals is that the former is more difficult to mine. This is because they are less likely to be found in high concentrations.

What are they used in?

The demand for rare earth elements has been growing due to the technological advancements that have occurred over the past two decades.

Aside from being used in the production of various electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, these elements are also widely used in the production of other common everyday objects such as glasses, magnets, and televisions.

These elements are also widely used in the production of electric motors and batteries, which are used in hybrid and electric vehicles. Because of their low-carbon properties, they are regarded as an important component of the future of low-emission technologies.

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