Rare Earth Summer: Neodymium

Neodymium, the 60th element on the periodic table, may be a more common name that its siblings, as it is a common ingredient in magnets. Including those clacker magnets that you can buy at roadside giftshops. 

But let’s zoom way out for a minute. Neodymium has also entered the the scene of renewable energy in its use in permanent magnets in wind turbines. As discussed in this article for the journal of Energy Research & Social Science, the need for neodymium and other rare earth materials are likely to create geopolitical strife (as they already have). But due to the wide dispersement of these materials (remember, they’re not really “rare”), this need not be the case. 

Other more general uses for neodymium include use in TVs, fluorescent lights, microphones, headphones, hard drives, astronomical glass (like in telescopes), and lasers. And of course, EVs. As for amounts, the average EV uses between 2 and 5 kg of rare earth materials. While this dependence may shift, “it is anticipated that neodymium magnets will continue to play a fundamental role in the design of the Hybrid engines and electric motor compartment.

According to Lentech, it is the second most abundant rare earth and nearly as abundant as copper! However, remember that the rare earth elements are not found in ore form and are instead in mineral alloys or amalgams like monazite and bastnasite and must be extracted and purified before use. 

As stated in the video above, hopefully global players can start working together to mine and recycle neodymium safely and effectively for the benefit of all.