Common Uses of Rare Earth Materials

Rare earth elements are essential components for many critical technologies, including mobile phones, flat-panel monitors/TVs, electric vehicle motors, and rechargeable batteries. Select the best earth materials.

Neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets are among the strongest magnets on Earth and can be found in bastnasite, monazite, loparite, and lateritic ion-adsorption clays. Furthermore, these powerful magnets play an integral part in catalytic converters and polishing powder for semiconductor manufacturing.


Magnets might not be at the top of people’s minds, but they play an essential role in supporting a green economy – acting as the backbone of motors for electric vehicles and wind turbines, domestic appliances such as refrigerators or speakers, robotic arms with servo motors, portable communication technologies like speakers – these powerful permanent magnets made from alloys of rare earth elements are essential in creating an eco-friendly energy future.

Neodymium and samarium are two of the most frequently utilized rare earth metals in permanent magnets. They have been extracted from Earth and mixed with transition metals to produce magnet alloys with higher-strength magnetic properties than pure neodymium or samarium. These alloys are the most popular varieties, such as Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) and Samarium Cobalt magnets, respectively.

NdFeB permanent magnets offer high energy density at a small footprint, making them an excellent solution for products requiring high power-to-weight ratios, such as electric vehicle motors or wind turbines. Furthermore, using a NdFeB magnet may eliminate the need for gearboxes in wind turbine towers, saving both space and weight in tower nacelles.

Samarium cobalt magnets are less often utilized, yet they offer higher Curie temperatures than their NdFeB counterparts and can withstand more heat without breaking down. Furthermore, the material’s antioxidation resistance makes it ideal for protecting against corrosion compared to its neodymium counterpart.

Rare Earth magnets come in multiple varieties, including ceramics and ferrite magnets. Ceramics are created by grinding raw materials into fine powder before firing them at high temperatures in a furnace. After firing, specific technical properties such as elasticity, tensile strength, compressive strength, shear strength, fracture toughness/flexibility, and indentation hardness may be treated to improve performance – they’re used in spark plugs, artificial joints, space shuttle tiles cooktops, micropositioners for chemical sensors as well as spark plugs used ferrite magnets are heated into high temperatures in an electric arc furnace at high temperatures then fired out again before finally entering an electric arc furnace where high temperatures produce them for mass consumer use in consumer electronics such as mobile phones and televisions – consumer devices generally come equipped with this type of rare earth magnet compared with ceramics which use ceramics;


Rare earth metals may not be plentifully found alone, but they play a critical role in many advanced technology products – from computer hard drives and hybrid electric vehicles to flat-screen monitors, televisions, and hybrid electric vehicles. Magnets use rare earth metals extensively, as do catalysts and phosphors essential to air pollution control and polishing optical-quality glass; plus, these elements help make batteries, catalytic converters, and fluorescent lighting more energy-efficient and eco-friendly.

Many rechargeable battery types contain rare earth compounds like neodymium and dysprosium, both essential ingredients in nickel-metal hydride batteries that have become increasingly popular as people transition towards hybrid and electric cars. Dysprosium can also be found as the anode material in such batteries; its addition helps improve performance by increasing energy density (the capacity to store more energy within a given volume).

Not only neodymium and dysprosium are critical rare earth elements, but other rare earth elements also serve essential purposes, including erbium. Erbium is used as an alloy with neodymium to produce powerful magnets. Erbium-doped fiber-optic cables also help amplify light; in addition, tinted glasses become pink due to it. Neutron capture agents used in nuclear control rods also contain this element.

Erbium is an integral component of renewable energy technology. A wind turbine requires two tons of rare earth magnets for operation; solar panels and hybrid electric vehicles also contain this element. As greener energy sources gain popularity, demand has skyrocketed, driving prices and consumption up. China continues to dominate world production, but new projects are springing up across Australia and the US.


Rare earth elements are essential components for batteries, catalytic converters, fluorescent lighting fixtures, magnets, and phosphors used to illuminate electronic device screens. While other substances may provide an alternate source of illumination for some of these uses, their performance tends to be inferior and more costly than what rare earth elements offer.

Batteries are electrical devices designed to convert chemical energy into electricity through electrochemical cells. Batteries consist of an anode and cathode composed of metals, oxides, or chemical compounds; any difference in cohesive or bond energies between them results in electrical energy being released via electrochemistry reactions.

Each battery type has distinct energy density and rechargeability characteristics that depend on its components, including alkaline, lithium-ion, and nickel metal hydride batteries.

Numerous pounds of rare earth compounds can be found in each battery used to power hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, and their use is expected to rise with growing awareness about energy independence and climate change. Other applications requiring rare earths include cell phones, flat-screen televisions, and laptop computers.

Light REEs are typically found in oxide compounds. Monazite and bastnaesite mined in China, the US, Madagascar, India, and Australia are primary sources for light REEs; to a lesser degree, loparite and xenotime can also be mined from Russia and Myanmar. Heavy REEs – the group of lanthanides comprising samarium (Sm), lutetium (Lu), and yttrium (Y) – come primarily from Chinese ion-adsorption clay deposits as well as, to a lesser extent, spent uranium solutions and thorium leachates. The United States also boasts significant rare earth elements (REEs) production from Mountain Pass Mine in California, along with undiscovered resources of REEs that remain to be discovered. Rare earth elements are an essential ingredient used in manufacturing aluminum-alloy baseball bats and other sports equipment.

Fuel Cells

Rare earth elements play an essential part in fuel cells. Rare earth elements form the cathode, anode, and solid electrolyte materials that store hydrogen chemically reacting with oxygen at battery-like levels. A catalyst at the anode ionizes fuel into positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons for further chemical reactions at battery levels. Ions are delivered to the cathode, where they react with it to produce electricity and water, with electrons released that can then be used to power devices like computers, lights, or motors. Rare earth metals contain single f-electrons protected by a layer of valence electrons that ensures their magnetic spins remain synchronized even under extreme conditions like heat. This makes rare earth metals ideal for permanent magnets, which create magnetic fields using only their atomic structure without needing an electric current to do so.

Lanthanide elements can also be found in alloys used to construct wind turbines and electric car motors. Neodymium is required to create strong magnets, while dysprosium and terbium prevent them from demagnetizing over time. As countries transition towards renewable energy sources, demand for rare earth minerals could surge by 400-600% within decades.

Though these metals may seem scarce, they’re actually relatively abundant. Thulium and lutetium – two of the least frequent of them all – have average crustal abundances about 200 times greater than gold’s. Unfortunately, however, rare earth don’t often occur in concentrations high enough for economic extraction; urban mines of electronic goods offer potential sources; solvent extraction is another possibility, while more sustainable methods like using cyanobacteria to decompose compounds containing rare earths can still be developed further; another promising approach would involve using cyanobacteria to break down compounds containing rare earths found in mining wastewater or recycled electronic waste materials.

Medical Devices

Rare earth metals known as lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 to 71) feature unique fluorescent, conductive, or magnetic properties that make them particularly effective when mixed in small amounts with other metals, such as iron. Lanthanides have applications in national security technologies, consumer products, and industrial processes.

REEs are essential components for producing electronic devices like cell phones, televisions, and computers, as they provide magnetic and luminescent properties that make these products possible. Furthermore, REEs play an essential role in green technology, such as wind turbines, hybrid and electric vehicles, and oil refinery equipment.

Neodymium is an integral component of magnets used in modern media and communications gadgets such as iPods and hard drives, as well as in displays and television screens, which contain rare earth elements in phosphors used for displays or TV screens. Without these compounds containing rare earths reacting with light to create vibrant displays, our modern displays would not be so vivid and colorful!

Dysprosium and neodymium combine in an alloy to produce heat-resistant and powerful magnets for use in motors and generators, nuclear control rod production, and amplifying light traveling down fiber-optic cables.

Samarium and yttrium have numerous medical applications, from MRI scans to the production of ceramics (like zirconia for hip replacements and other surgeries). They are also used in an innovative neurostimulator to help alleviate pain or other symptoms.