In the late 18th century, these elements are discovered as oxidized materials Â– hence Â“earthsÂ”, they are called Rare Earths. They are just actually metals and arenÂ’t rare; just all over the place. A cupful of dirt from a backyard might contain an iota, maybe a few parts per million. The comparison of the rarest rare earth is around 200 times more abundant than gold but deposits large and concentrated enough to be worth mining are indeed rare.
RARE EARTHS - WHERE ARE THEY?
In the late 18th century, these elements are discovered as oxidized materials – hence “earths”, they are called Rare Earths. They are just actually metals and aren’t rare; just all over the place. A cupful of dirt from a backyard might contain an iota, maybe a few parts per million. The comparison of the rarest rare earth is around 200 times more abundant than gold but deposits large and concentrated enough to be worth mining are indeed rare.
To find the things that contain rare earths is almost infinite. Magnets with them are powerful than the regular magnets and it is paper-weight; that is one cause so many varieties of electronic devices have gotten smaller and thinner. Hybrid cars and wind turbines carries rare earth including “green machines.” The battery in a single car houses around 20 pounds of the rare earth element lanthanum (the name comes from Greek word “lanthano” meaning to be hidden). Lanthanum is Periodic Element#57 with symbol La, uses: Military/Energy/Transportation/Consumer/Products. The magnet in a huge wind turbine can contain more or less 500 pounds of neodymium. Military equipments like night-vision, goggles, even cruise missiles and other weapons need rare earths.
Karl Gschneidner, a senior metallurgist with the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa who has studied rare earth elements for more than 50 years tells that the phosphors in every TV, LCD or LED – the red color comes from the element called Europium (Eu – Periodic Element#63 – Uses: Medical/Energy/Consumer Products). The catalytic converter on every exhaust system contains lanthanum and cerium. Cerium is Periodic Element#58 with symbol Ce, uses: Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products.
“They are all around us,” says Karl Gschneidner, “They are hidden unless you know about them, so people do not worry about them as long as they could keep buying them.”
U.S. military depends on rare earths, mainly from Chinese mines. Night-Vision goggles contain lanthanum, yttrium and gadolinium. (Yttrium is Periodic Element#39 with Y symbol and uses: Medical/Military/Energy/Consumer Products; Gadolinium is Periodic Elements#64 with symbol Gd and uses: Energy/Medical/Consumer Products) Samarium magnets can stands intense heat helps control Tomahawk cruise missiles. (Samarium is Periodic Element#62 with Sm symbol and uses: Military/Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products)
Medical scans contain Gadolinium that is use as contrast agent in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) delivering surgeons to distinguish diseased tissue from healthy tissues. While hybrid cars or the “green machines” can not operate without the rare earth element – lanthanum for their batteries and neodymium, a rare earth magnet for electric motors. Neodymium is Periodic Element#60 with symbol Nd and uses: Military/Medical/Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products.
Wind Turbines comprises hundreds of pounds of neodymium. Consumer products: a compact fluorescent light bulb contains minimum amounts of yttrium and terbium (Terbium is Periodic Element#65 with symbol Tb and uses: Military/Medical/Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products); praseodymium, erbium, neodymium tint sunglasses for protecting eyes; cerium in dark wine-bottle glass promotes absorption of UV light. Some portable power tools depend on neodymium or dysprosium magnets to reduce their motors.
Rare earths aid phones emit sounds and light, including mp3 players. Neodymium magnets intensify speakers, vibrating motors and the tiny earphones. LCD and LED screen colors are developed by europium (reds) and terbium (greens).
Rare earths are 17 essential metals that cluster together on the periodic table – 15 of them, from lanthanum to lutetium, form a successive series and in mineral deposits too. Malleable, reactive, refractive and magnetic they are small ingredients of many big things.
Scandium is Periodic Element#21 with Sc symbol - uses: Transportation/Consumer Products.
Praseodymium is Periodic Element#59 with Pr symbol - uses: Medical/Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products
Promethium is Periofic Element#61 with Pm symbol - PRODUCED BY NUCLEAR FISSION, NOT MINED
Terbium is Periodic Element#65 with Tb symbol - uses: Energy/Medical/Military/Transportation/Consumer Products
Dysprosium is Periodic Element#66 with Dy symbol - uses: Medical/Energy/Transportation/Consumer Products
Holmium is Periodic Element#67 with Ho symbol - uses: Military/Energy
Erbium is Periodic Element#68 with Er symbol - uses: Consumer Products
Thulium is Periodic Element#69 with Tm symbol - uses: Military/Medical
Lutetium is Periodic Element#71 with Lu symbol - uses: Medical/Energy
China supplies the superiority percentage of the world’s rare earth needs. In 2010, the global world markets were rattled when China cuts off shipments to Japan for a month due to diplomatic disputes. It will be much a scarce over the next decade, China is expected to steadily reduce rare earth exports in order to protect the supplies of their own rapidly growing industries.
China had been developing the technology of separating rare earth which is hard to endure because they’re chemically so identical. With the support of the government, cheap labor and non-existence of environmental ordinance, China’s rare earth industries undersell all competitors.
When the Mountain Pass mine closed in 2002, Baotou, a city in Inner Mongolia becomes the new rare earth capital. But Chen Zhangheng, director of the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, academic department in Beijing says that Baotou’s mines hold about 80 percent of china’s rare earth.
Baotou has paid an immerse amount for its supremacy. Some of these high-tech products rules out to have very nasty origins. Rare earth mines usually contain radioactive compounds such as uranium and thorium. Residents near Baotou reportedly have been relocated because water and crops have been contaminated with mining wastes. Yearly the mines near Baotou produce about ten million tons of wastewater, highly acidic or radioactive and left untreated.
National Geographic June 2011 p.136 to p.145
Primary Image: wikipedia