A Little About Rare Earth

Neodymium is a rare-earth element that belongs to the lanthanide group. The strongest permanent magnets made from Neodymium magnets are Nd2Fe14B, an alloy. Neodymium, a lanthanide is also extensively used in research on lanthanide and actinide related to used nuclear fuel recycling.

Neodymium, a chemical element that bears the symbol Nd with an atomic number of 60, is one such example. Neodymium is a rare-earth element that belongs to the lanthanide group. It is a silvery, hard metal that tarnishes quickly in moisture and air. Neodymium is quick to react when oxidized and produces pink, purple/blue, and yellow compounds in the +2,+3 and +4 states. Carl Auer von Welsbach, an Austrian chemist, discovered neodymium in 1885. It is found in large quantities in the minerals monazite, bastnasite and other ore minerals. It is rarely found in metallic form, or unmixed by other lanthanides. Neodymium is often refined for general usage. Although neodymium has been classified as a rare earth element, it is quite common and no more rare than cobalt or nickel. It is also widely distributed in Earth's crust. China is the main source of commercial neodymium.


In 1927, neodymium compounds were commercially available as glass dyes. They are still a very popular addition to glasses. The Nd3+ ion is responsible for the color of neodymium compounds. It is usually a reddish purple. However, it can change with lighting because of the interaction between the sharp light absorption band of neodymium and ambient light enriched in the sharp visible emission bands from mercury, trivalent Europium, or terbium. Lasers emitting infrared at wavelengths between 1047 to 1062 nanometers can use some neodymium doped glasses. These glasses have been used in high-power applications such as experiments in inertial confinement and fusion. Other substrate crystals can also be used with Neodymium, including yttrium aluminum garnet in Nd:YAG laser.


An important function of neodymium in alloys that make powerful permanent magnets with high-strength, high-strength magnets is its role as a component. These magnets are used widely in products such as microphones and professional loudspeakers, in ear headphones, hobby DC electric motors with high power, and computer hard drives. Larger neodymium magnets are used in high-power-versus-weight electric motors (for example in hybrid cars) and generators (for example aircraft and wind turbine electric generators).

Samarium: Did You Know?

Period Lanthanoid


When the fuel is made as a neutron poison, some reactors will contain samarium149. This will cause a more even fuel usage and samarium-149 will be burned along with the fuel. This allows for more uranium to be loaded at the start of core life without too much reactivity.




Samarium is a chemical elements with the symbol Sm, and the atomic number 62. It is a silvery-colored metal with a moderately high hardness that slowly oxidizes when exposed to air. Samarium is a member of the lanthanide family and usually assumes the +3 oxidation state. There are many compounds of samarium (II), including the monochalcogenides SmS and SmSe, samarium(II), iodide, and monoxide SmO. This last compound is a common chemical reducing agent. Samarium is not toxic, but it has a limited biological function.


Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, a French chemist, discovered Samarium in 1879. He named it after the mineral Samarskite which it was derived. Although the mineral was originally named after Colonel Vassili Samarsky–Bykhovets (a Russian mine official), it became the first chemical element to be named after him. Samarium, although it is a rare-earth metal, is 40th most common element in the Earth's crust. Samarium can be found in concentrations up to 2.8% in a variety of minerals, including gadolinite and samarskite as well as monazite, bastnasite, cerite, and gadolinite. These are the most commonly commercially available sources. These minerals can be found mostly in Australia, Brazil, India and Sri Lanka. China is the most important country for samarium production and mining.


Samarium has a major commercial use in samarium cobalt magnets. These magnets have permanent magnetization that is second only to neodymium. However, samarium compounds can withstand much higher temperatures (700 degC/1,292 F) without losing their magnetic properties due to the alloy’s higher Curie points. Samarium-153, a radioactive isotope, is the active component in the drug samarium (153Sm), lexidronam, (Quadramet), that kills cancer cells during treatment for lung cancer, breast cancer, and osteosarcoma. Samarium-149 is another isotope that is strong in neutron absorption and is added to control rods for nuclear reactors. It forms during reactor operation as a decay product and is an important factor in reactor design and operation. Samarium can also be used to catalyze chemical reactions, radioactive dating, and X-ray lasers.

Iron: Did You Know?

Period 4


Steels are mainly composed of iron. Many forms of stainless steel are available for use in various internal nuclear reactor mechanisms as well as fuel cladding. The outer layer of the fuel rods is called cladding. It stands between the coolant, and the nuclear fuel. It is usually made from a corrosion-resistant material that has a low absorption crosssection for thermal neutrons. In modern constructions it is typically Zircaloy, or steel. Cladding prevents radioactive fragments of fission from entering the coolant and contaminating the coolant.




Iron () is chemical element that has symbol Fe (from Latin ferrum) as well as atomic number 26. It belongs to the first series of transition metals and group 8 on the periodic table. It is the third most abundant element on Earth by mass, just ahead of oxygen (33.21% and 30.1% respectively). It forms a large part of Earth's outer core and inner core. It is fourth in the Earth's crust.


Iron is scarce in its metallic form, which is due mainly to the deposition of meteorites. Iron ores are, however, among the most plentiful in Earth's crust. However, to extract usable metal from them, kilns or furnaces must be capable of reaching 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,730 degrees F) or higher. This is 500 degrees Celsius (900 degF), higher than the temperature required to melt copper. Around 2000 BCE, humans began to master this process in Eurasia. Iron tools and weapons were used to replace copper alloys in certain regions. This was only 1200 BCE. This event is known as the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age. Because of their low cost and mechanical properties, iron alloys such as steel and stainless steel are the most commonly used industrial metals in the modern world.


Pure iron surfaces are smooth and pristine. They look mirror-like, silvery-gray. Iron reacts with oxygen and water to form brown-black hydrated iron oxides. This is commonly called rust. Contrary to other metal oxides that form passivating layers rust occupies less volume and flakes off, leaving exposed surfaces for corrosion. High purity iron, also known as electrolytic iron has a better resistance to corrosion than iron.


An adult human's body contains approximately 4 grams of iron (0.005% bodyweight), mainly in hemoglobin or myoglobin. These proteins are essential for vertebrate metabolism. They play an important role in oxygen transport through blood and oxygen storage within muscles. Human iron metabolism needs to be maintained at the required levels. Iron is also the active site for many important redox enzymes that deal with cellular respiration, oxidation, and reduction in animals and plants.


Iron(II) or iron(III) are the most common iron oxidation states. Iron shares many of the properties of other transition metals such as ruthenium, osmium, and other elements in the group 8. Iron can form compounds in many oxidation states from -2 to +7. Many iron compounds can also be formed as coordination compounds. Some of these, like ferrioxalate and ferrocene have significant industrial, medical, or research uses.

Cobalt: Did You Know?

Period 4


Cobalt-60, a radioisotope that is commercially valuable, is used to produce high-energy Gamma Rays and as a radioactive tracer. Cobalt can be used for external beam radiotherapy, sterilization medical supplies and medical scrap, radiation treatment to foods for sterilization (cold pasteeurization), radiography in industry (e.g. weld integrity radiographs), density measurement (e.g. concrete density measurements) and tank fill height switches.


Cobalt is a chemical elements with the symbol Co, and atomic number 27, respectively. Cobalt, like nickel, is only found in Earth's crust in a chemically mixed form. There are small amounts of cobalt in meteorite iron alloys. Reductive smelting produces the free element. It is a hard, shiny, silver-gray metallic.


Blue pigments made from cobalt-based substances (cobaltblue) have been used for jewelry, paints and to give a unique blue tint to glass. However, it was later discovered that the color is due to bismuth, a known metal. Miners had long used the name kobold ore (German for goblin ore) for some of the blue-pigment-producing minerals; they were so named because they were poor in known metals, and gave poisonous arsenic-containing fumes when smelted. These ores were discovered to be able to be reduced to a new metal in 1735. This was the first time that this had been done since ancient times. The kobold was eventually named after them.


Some cobalt today is made from one of several metallic-lustered minerals, like cobaltite. However, the element is more often produced as a byproduct of nickel and copper mining. Most of the world's cobalt production is produced by the Copperbelt in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Natural Resources Canada, the world's 2016 production was 116,000 tonnes (1114,000 long tons; 128,000 small tons). The DRC alone accounted more than half of that total.