Light rare earth elements (‘LREE’), which include lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), and samarium (Sm)
Lanthanum is a key component in batteries for hybrid vehicles, computers, and electronic devices. It’s physical and chemical properties enable the elements used in a variety of other products. Lanthanum is utilized in hydrogen fuel storage cells, special optical glasses, electronic vacuums, carbon lighting applications, as doping agents in camera and telescope lenses, and in polishing glass and gemstones. It also has major applications in petroleum cracking, and as an alloy for many different metals.
Cerium oxide is widely used to polish glass surfaces. Other Cerium compounds are used to manufacture glass and enamels both as ingredients, as well as colour removal agents. Cerium is a component in solar panels, LEDs, catalytic converters, thermal resistance alloys, carbon arc lighting, self-cleaning ovens, petroleum refining, hardening agents, and dental ceramics.
Praseodymium is a LREE with numerous applications. It is most widely used as an alloying agent with magnesium for high-strength metal applications in aircraft engines. It is also used in super magnets, catalytic converters, UV protective glasses, carbon arc lights, and CAT scan scintillators. The element is additionally used as a doping agent in fibre optic cables, and in several metal alloys.
Neodymium is essential in the production of the world’s strongest super magnets, which are present in hybrid cars, state-of-the-art wind and tidal turbines, industrial motors, air conditioners, elevators, microphones, loudspeakers, computer hard drives, in-ear headphones, and guitar pick-ups. When combined with Terbium, or Dysprosium, a Neodymium magnet can withstand the highest temperatures of any magnet, allowing the element to be used to be used in electric cars. Neodymium has many additional uses. It is utilized in incandescent light bulbs, cathode ray tubes, as a glass filter and colourant, as a doping agent in Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet lasers, and for glare-reduction in rear-view mirrors.
Samarium-cobalt alloys are used to make permanent magnets that are extremely difficult to demagnetize and work at high temperatures, making them irreplaceable in some hybrid electric automobiles. Samarium-cobalt magnets also have additional applications in the music industry, but are primarily used as precise pickups. The element can be found in many other compounds used for such products as neodymium-yttrium-aluminum garnet laser glass, and infrared absorption glass, capacitors for microwave frequencies, as well as in the cancer drug, ‘Quadramet’.