Neodymium: A little background
Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach, though its discovery brought about some controversy — the metal cannot be found naturally in its metallic form, and must be separated from didymium.
As the Royal Society of Chemistry notes, that caused skepticism among chemists as to whether it was a unique metal or not. However, it wasn’t long before neodymium was given recognition as an element in its own right. The metal gets its name from the Greek “neos didymos,” which means “new twin.”
Neodymium itself is quite common. In fact, it is twice as common as lead and about half as common as copper in the Earth’s crust. It is typically extracted from monazite and bastnasite ores, but it is also a by-product of nuclear fission.
Neodymium: Key applications
As mentioned, neodymium has incredibly strong magnetic properties, and is used to create the strongest rare earth magnets currently available by weight and volume. Praseodymium, another rare earth, is also often found in such magnets, while dysprosium is added to improve the functionality of neodymium magnets at higher temperatures.
Neodymium-iron-boron magnets have revolutionized many mainstays of modern technology, such as cell phones and computers. Due to how powerful these magnets are even in small sizes, neodymium has made the miniaturization of many electronics possible, as per the Royal Society of Chemistry.
To give a few examples, Apex Magnets notes that neodymium magnets cause the tiny vibrations in mobile devices when a ringer is silenced, and it is only because of neodymium’s strong magnetic properties that MRI scanners can produce an accurate view of the inside of a human body without having to use radiation.
These magnets are also used for graphics in modern TVs; they greatly improve picture quality by accurately directing electrons to the screen in the proper order for maximum clarity and enhanced color.
Additionally, neodymium is a key component in wind turbines, which use neodymium magnets to assist with enhancing turbine power and generating electricity. The metal is most commonly found in direct-drive wind turbines. These function at lower speeds, allowing wind farms to create more electricity than traditional wind turbines, and in turn make a greater profit.
Essentially, since neodymium doesn’t weigh much (even though it generates a significant amount of force) there are fewer parts involved in the overall design, making turbines more efficient energy producers. As demand for alternative energy rises, demand for neodymium is set to increase as well.
Post time: Apr-22-2020