Toggle menu
Tel: 972-516-0692
The Chemicals that Make Rare Earth Magnets Possible?

The Chemicals that Make Rare Earth Magnets Possible?

Posted by L.E. Carlson on Aug 17th 2021

Neodymium: Did you know?

Group Lanthanoids | Period Lanthanoid | Atomic mass 144.242 u | Solid at room temperature | Lanthanoid

Neodymium belongs to the lanthanide series and is a rare-earth element. Neodymium magnets (made from an alloy, Nd2Fe14B) are the strongest permanent magnets known. As a lanthanide, Neodymium is also used extensively in l

anthanide-actinide research associated with used nuclear fuel recycling.

Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. Neodymium belongs to the lanthanide series and is a rare-earth element. It is a hard, slightly malleable silvery metal that quickly tarnishes in air and moisture. When oxidized, neodymium reacts quickly to produce pink, purple/blue and yellow compounds in the +2, +3 and +4 oxidation states. Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is present in significant quantities in the ore minerals monazite and bastnäsite. Neodymium is not found naturally in metallic form or unmixed with other lanthanides, and it is usually refined for general use. Although neodymium is classed as a rare-earth element, it is fairly common, no rarer than cobalt, nickel, or copper, and is widely distributed in the Earth's crust. Most of the world's commercial neodymium is mined in China.

Neodymium compounds were first commercially used as glass dyes in 1927, and they remain a popular additive in glasses. The color of neodymium compounds is due to the Nd3+ ion and is often a reddish-purple, but it changes with the type of lighting, because of the interaction of the sharp light absorption bands of neodymium with ambient light enriched with the sharp visible emission bands of mercury, trivalent europium or terbium. Some neodymium-doped glasses are used in lasers that emit infrared with wavelengths between 1047 and 1062 nanometers. These have been used in extremely-high-power applications, such as experiments in inertial confinement fusion. Neodymium is also used with various other substrate crystals, such as yttrium aluminium garnet in the Nd:YAG laser.

Another important use of neodymium is as a component in the alloys used to make high-strength neodymium magnets—powerful permanent magnets. These magnets are widely used in such products as microphones, professional loudspeakers, in-ear headphones, high performance hobby DC electric motors, and computer hard disks, where low magnet mass (or volume) or strong magnetic fields are required. 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?   

Group Lanthanoids | Period Lanthanoid | Atomic mass 150.36 u | Solid at room temperature | Lanthanoid

Some reactors will have samarium-149 loaded into the fuel when it is manufactured as a built-in neutron poison. The samarium will burn up along with the fuel, causing a more even fuel use. That way more uranium can be loaded initially without causing too much reactivity at the beginning of core life.


Samarium is a chemical element with the symbol Sm and atomic number 62. It is a moderately hard silvery metal that slowly oxidizes in air. Being a typical member of the lanthanide series, samarium usually assumes the oxidation state +3. Compounds of samarium(II) are also known, most notably the monoxide SmO, monochalcogenides SmS, SmSe and SmTe, as well as samarium(II) iodide. The last compound is a common reducing agent in chemical synthesis. Samarium has no significant biological role but is only slightly toxic.

Samarium was discovered in 1879 by the French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran and named after the mineral samarskite from which it was isolated. The mineral itself was earlier named after a Russian mine official, Colonel Vassili Samarsky-Bykhovets, who thereby became the first person to have a chemical element named after him, albeit indirectly. Although classified as a rare-earth element, samarium is the 40th most abundant element in the Earth's crust and is more common than metals such as tin. Samarium occurs with concentration up to 2.8% in several minerals including cerite, gadolinite, samarskite, monazite and bastnäsite, the last two being the most common commercial sources of the element. These minerals are mostly found in China, the United States, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia; China is by far the world leader in samarium mining and production.

The major commercial application of samarium is in samarium–cobalt magnets, which have permanent magnetization second only to neodymium magnets; however, samarium compounds can withstand significantly higher temperatures, above 700 °C (1,292 °F), without losing their magnetic properties, due to the alloy's higher Curie point. The radioactive isotope samarium-153 is the active component of the drug samarium (153Sm) lexidronam (Quadramet), which kills cancer cells in the treatment of lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and osteosarcoma. Another isotope, samarium-149, is a strong neutron absorber and is therefore added to the control rods of nuclear reactors. It is also formed as a decay product during the reactor operation and is one of the important factors considered in the reactor design and operation. Other applications of samarium include catalysis of chemical reactions, radioactive dating and X-ray lasers.

Iron: Did you know?   [email protected]

Group 8 | Period 4 | Atomic mass 55.845 u | Solid at room temperature | Transition Metal

Iron is the major component in steels. Stainless steels of various forms are proposed for various nuclear reactor internal mechanisms and as a fuel cladding. Cladding is the outer layer of the fuel rods, standing between the coolant and the nuclear fuel. It is made of a corrosion-resistant material with low absorption cross section for thermal neutrons, usually Zircaloy or steel in modern constructions. Cladding prevents radioactive fission fragments from escaping the fuel into the coolant and contaminating it.


Iron () is a chemical element with symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is, by mass, the most common element on Earth, right in front of oxygen (32.1% and 30.1%, respectively), forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust.

In its metallic state, iron is rare in the Earth's crust, limited mainly to deposition by meteorites. Iron ores, by contrast, are among the most abundant in the Earth's crust, although extracting usable metal from them requires kilns or furnaces capable of reaching 1,500 °C (2,730 °F) or higher, about 500 °C (900 °F) higher than that required to smelt copper. Humans started to master that process in Eurasia by about 2000 BCE, and the use of iron tools and weapons began to displace copper alloys, in some regions, only around 1200 BCE. That event is considered the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. In the modern world, iron alloys, such as steel, stainless steel, cast iron and special steels are by far the most common industrial metals, because of their mechanical properties and low cost.

Pristine and smooth pure iron surfaces are mirror-like silvery-gray. However, iron reacts readily with oxygen and water to give brown to black hydrated iron oxides, commonly known as rust. Unlike the oxides of some other metals, that form passivating layers, rust occupies more volume than the metal and thus flakes off, exposing fresh surfaces for corrosion. Although iron readily reacts, high purity iron, called electrolytic iron, has better corrosion resistance.

The body of an adult human contains about 4 grams (0.005% body weight) of iron, mostly in hemoglobin and myoglobin. These two proteins play essential roles in vertebrate metabolism, respectively oxygen transport by blood and oxygen storage in muscles. To maintain the necessary levels, human iron metabolism requires a minimum of iron in the diet. Iron is also the metal at the active site of many important redox enzymes dealing with cellular respiration and oxidation and reduction in plants and animals.

Chemically, the most common oxidation states of iron are iron(II) and iron(III). Iron shares many properties of other transition metals, including the other group 8 elements, ruthenium and osmium. Iron forms compounds in a wide range of oxidation states, −2 to +7. Iron also forms many coordination compounds; some of them, such as ferrocene, ferrioxalate, and Prussian blue, have substantial industrial, medical, or research applications.

Cobalt: Did you know?

Group 9 | Period 4 | Atomic mass 58.933 u | Solid at room temperature | Transition Metal

Cobalt-60 is a commercially important radioisotope, used as a radioactive tracer and for the production of high-energy gamma rays. Cobalt is used in external beam radiotherapy, sterilization of medical supplies and medical waste, radiation treatment of foods for sterilization (cold pasteurization), industrial radiography (e.g., weld integrity radiographs), density measurements (e.g., concrete density measurements), and tank fill height switches.

Cobalt is a chemical element with the symbol Co and atomic number 27. Like nickel, cobalt is found in the Earth's crust only in a chemically combined form, save for small deposits found in alloys of natural meteoric iron. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal.

Cobalt-based blue pigments (cobalt blue) have been used since ancient times for jewelry and paints, and to impart a distinctive blue tint to glass, but the color was later thought to be due to the known metal bismuth. 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. In 1735, such ores were found to be reducible to a new metal (the first discovered since ancient times), and this was ultimately named for the kobold.

Today, some cobalt is produced specifically from one of a number of metallic-lustered ores, such as cobaltite (CoAsS). The element is, however, more usually produced as a by-product of copper and nickel mining. The Copperbelt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia yields most of the global cobalt production. World production in 2016 was 116,000 tonnes (114,000 long tons; 128,000 short tons) (according to Natural Resources Canada), and the DRC alone accounted for more than 50%.

Cobalt is primarily used in lithium-ion batteries, and in the manufacture of magnetic, wear-resistant and high-strength alloys. The compounds cobalt silicate and cobalt(II) aluminate (CoAl2O4, cobalt blue) give a distinctive deep blue color to glass, ceramics, inks, paints and varnishes. Cobalt occurs naturally as only one stable isotope, cobalt-59. Cobalt-60 is a commercially important radioisotope, used as a radioactive tracer and for the production of high-energy gamma rays.

Cobalt is the active center of a group of coenzymes called cobalamins. Vitamin B12, the best-known example of the type, is an essential vitamin for all animals. Cobalt in inorganic form is also a micronutrient for bacteria, algae, and fungi.

Boron: Did you know?

Group 13 | Period 2 | Atomic mass 10.810 u | Solid at room temperature | Metalloid

Because of its high neutron cross-section, Boron-10 is often used to control fission in nuclear reactors as a neutron-capturing substance. Enriched boron, or 10B, is used in both radiation shielding and is the primary nuclide used in neutron capture therapy of cancer. In nuclear reactors, 10B is used for reactivity control and in emergency shutdown systems. It can serve either function in the form of borosilicate control rods or as boric acid. In pressurized water reactors, boric acid is added to the reactor coolant when the plant is shut down for refueling. Boron shielding is used as a control for nuclear reactors, taking advantage of its high cross-section for neutron capture. In pressurized water reactors, a variable concentration of boronic acid in the cooling water is used to compensate the variable reactivity of the fuel. When new rods are inserted, the concentration of boronic acid is maximal, and then reduced during the lifetime.

Boron is a chemical element with the symbol B and atomic number 5. Produced entirely by cosmic ray spallation and supernovae and not by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in the Solar System and in the Earth's crust. It constitutes about 0.001 percent by weight of Earth's crust. Boron is concentrated on Earth by the water-solubility of its more common naturally occurring compounds, the borate minerals. These are mined industrially as evaporites, such as borax and kernite. The largest known boron deposits are in Turkey, the largest producer of boron minerals.

Elemental boron is a metalloid that is found in small amounts in meteoroids but chemically uncombined boron is not otherwise found naturally on Earth. Industrially, very pure boron is produced with difficulty because of refractory contamination by carbon or other elements. Several allotropes of boron exist: amorphous boron is a brown powder; crystalline boron is silvery to black, extremely hard (about 9.5 on the Mohs scale), and a poor electrical conductor at room temperature. The primary use of elemental boron is as boron filaments with applications similar to carbon fibers in some high-strength materials.

Boron is primarily used in chemical compounds. About half of all boron consumed globally is an additive in fiberglass for insulation and structural materials. The next leading use is in polymers and ceramics in high-strength, lightweight structural and refractory materials. Borosilicate glass is desired for its greater strength and thermal shock resistance than ordinary soda lime glass. Boron as sodium perborate is used as a bleach. A small amount of boron is used as a dopant in semiconductors, and reagent intermediates in the synthesis of organic fine chemicals. A few boron-containing organic pharmaceuticals are used or are in study. Natural boron is composed of two stable isotopes, one of which (boron-10) has a number of uses as a neutron-capturing agent.

The intersection of boron with biology is very small. Consensus on boron as essential for mammalian life is lacking. Borates have low toxicity in mammals (similar to table salt) but are more toxic to arthropods and are occasionally used as insecticides. Boron-containing organic antibiotics are known.