Photonics Dictionary

rare-earth elements

Rare-earth elements (REEs) are a group of seventeen chemical elements found in the Earth's crust, characterized by their unique properties and scarcity relative to other elements. Despite their name, many rare-earth elements are actually quite abundant in the Earth's crust, but they are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated deposits.

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The rare-earth elements consist of the following seventeen elements:

Lanthanum (La)
Cerium (Ce)
Praseodymium (Pr)
Neodymium (Nd)
Promethium (Pm)
Samarium (Sm)
Europium (Eu)
Gadolinium (Gd)
Terbium (Tb)
Dysprosium (Dy)
Holmium (Ho)
Erbium (Er)
Thulium (Tm)
Ytterbium (Yb)
Lutetium (Lu)
Scandium (Sc)
Yttrium (Y)

Rare-earth elements have unique magnetic, electrical, and optical properties that make them crucial components in various technological applications, including electronics, renewable energy technologies (such as wind turbines and electric vehicles), catalysis, and lighting. For example, neodymium and praseodymium are essential for the production of high-performance permanent magnets used in electric motors and generators. Europium and terbium are used in phosphors for fluorescent lamps and television screens. Lanthanum and cerium are used in catalysts for petroleum refining and automotive catalytic converters.

Due to their strategic importance in modern technology, rare-earth elements have garnered significant attention from governments and industries worldwide, leading to concerns about supply security and environmental impacts associated with their extraction and processing.
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