Nd - Neodymium
|Chemical Element||Neodymium||Melting Point °C||1021|
|Chemical Symbol||Nd||Boiling Point °C||3070|
|Atomic Number||60||Density g/cm3||7|
|Atomic Weight||144.24||Oxide||NdO and Nd2O3|
Neodymium is a bright silvery-white metal belonging to the Lanthanoid group in the Periodic Table. It is the 26th most abundant element within the Earth’s crust. Neodymium is quickly tarnished in air, meaning that it must be either sealed in a plastic container or covered in oil. It reacts slowly with cold water and rapidly with hot. Neodymium is a magnetic substance and is used to create some of the strongest magnets on Earth.
In 1841, whilst analysing a sample of cerium, Carl Mosander discovered that this cerium, in fact, harboured two other elements, which he managed to extract. These new elements he named lanthanum and didymium. For about 40 years, his discovery went unquestioned until chemists wondered whether didymium was actually an element, or if it was a combination of more than one element. These suspicions were confirmed in 1882, when Bohuslav Brauner of Prague used the atomic spectrum to demonstrate that it was not a pure metal at all. Brauner was unable to separate didymium, and in June 1885 another chemist, Carl Auer von Welsbach announced that he had succeeded in splitting didymium into its two components: neodymium and praseodymium in the form of their oxides. A pure sample of metallic neodymium was not produced for another 40 years, until 1925. Neodymium was named after two Greek words, ‘neos’, meaning new and ‘didymos’, meaning twin.
Neodymium can be extracted from all minerals and ores which contain lanthanides, however the most important one is monazite and certain bastnäsite deposits. China, USA, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia are the primary sources for these ores, with China dominating production. There are thought to be reserves of neodymium in the region of 8 million mt. Very pure neodymium metal is produced by reacting neodymium fluoride with calcium, however, little is produced due to the high costs involved.
Most of neodymium’s applications are somewhat overshadowed by its success as a permanent magnet, first produced in 1983. When added to magnesium alloys, it greatly improves their strength. Neodymium also has various applications within the glass industry. Neodymium oxides create purple and sky-blue tints for artistic glass and ceramics, and when added to cathode-ray tube glass, picture brightness is enhanced by absorbing yellow light waves. The neodymium oxides are also used to make protective eye-wear for welding and artificial tanning booths, as well as powerful solid state lasers used in material processing, drilling, spot welding, marking and medicine.
The most prominent application, however, is the neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet, which has given rise to many applications and dominates neodymium consumption at nearly 70%. Permanent magnets are used in most of our luxury electronics today, such as computer hard drives, mobile phones, and audio speakers. These very powerful magnets have given rise to the miniaturisation of these electronics and made the most of the power to cost ratio necessary, as the demand placed on the efficiency of our electronic goods increases. These magnets are also widely used within car manufacture for ABS, anti-glare lights and mirrors, electronic windows and door locking. The ‘greenest’ application of the NdFeB magnets is in the generators of wind turbines and drive motors and NiMH batteries of hybrid and electric vehicles.
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- Stwertka, Albert. A Guide to the Elements, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2012