Today, we have wind turbines and electric cars. The most used metal in these wind turbines and electric cars is called as neodymium. It is a rare metal but is widely used. Here is an overview of the chemistry and applications of the lanthanide which is a rare earth element neodymium and is a constituent of super-strength magnets that are used to miniaturise electric motors.
Neodymium has a chemical symbol Nd and is an element with the atomic number of 60 which means that the nucleus of each atom has 60 protons. As a pure substance, it has a silvery-grey colour and is one of the most reactive lanthanides. It quickly tarnishes in the presence of air and is found in nature as an ore in minerals such as monazite and bastnasite.
It is the largest constituent of a new type of high-strength magnets that are used to increase the power and also to reduce the size and weight of electric motors. This makes the electric motors indispensible especially for the new generation of hybrid and electric cars, the miniaturisation of hard disk drives, and also for the construction of wind turbines, which also depend on strong magnetic fields to generate electricity.
Neodymium is also an important constituent of the alloy of rare earth metals which is known as “mischmetal” and is used in the flint mechanism of many cigarette lighters.It was first commercially used in the pigmentation of glass. This glass was produced by the inclusion of neodymium oxide and appeared lavender in colour in daylight or incandescent light, but pale blue under fluorescent light. If gold or selenium is also added to the glass, red colours result.
The commercial demand for neodymium has dramatically increased over the recent years due to the discovery of super-strength magnets which is made from an alloy of neodymium with iron and boron (Nd2Fe14B). The alloy was discovered in 1982, by General Motors, Sumitomo Special Metals and the China Academy of Science. This was done in response to the high price of samarium-cobalt magnets which were the first type of rare earth magnets to be commercialised.