Neodymium is a soft, silver metal with the chemical symbol Nd and the atomic number of 60. When exposed to the air neodymium tarnishes quickly. It is found naturally in chemical form in ore minerals such as monazite and bastnäsite and is one of the most common elements found within the crust of the Earth. It is generally refined into its metallic form for many applications.
Uses of Neodymium
Neodymium has a wide range of applications in the industrial, electronics and earth sciences. Some of the smaller uses of this element include:
- Use as a high temperature chemical element in cyrocoolers.
- Use as a fertilizer (particularly in China). It has similar properties to Calcium and Nitrogen.
- Use as a form of chemical dating called Samarium-neodymium dating which is helpful in determining the age of rock formations and meteorites.
- Used as a predictor of the size and strength of volcanic eruptions. Different types of eruptions produce different neodymium isotopes, this information can be used to warn residents of the size and strength of a coming eruption.
The main use of neodymium is in magnets. When combined with other metals it creates the strongest permanent magnet that is currently known. They are also cheap to produce and lightweight which makes them a favorite for uses in which small mass and size are required. Neodymium magnets are used in products such as microphones, professional loudspeakers, in-ear headphones, guitar and bass guitar pick-ups and computer hard disks. These magnets are also used in the engines of aircraft, hybrid powered automobiles and some wind turbines.
(original image by GOKLuLe)
Another major use of neodymium is in doped lasers. Neodymium is added to glass to increase the gain of infrared wave lengths. It is used in lasers that determine the density, temperature and pressure of chemical reactions.
Neodymium crystals produce the green infrared light that is used in hand-held lasers and laser-pointers.
Neodymium oxide is used to color glass in a variety of shades from pure violet through to soft grey.
This glass is often used in astronomy. It is also used to make the glass in safety goggles because of the way the neodymium causes the light to be absorbed. Another use for this glass is in the production of color enhancing filters, which are used in photography to eliminate the yellow hues from overhead incandescent lighting.It is also being added to light bulb glass to create a light that is closer to natural sunlight. Neodymium glass has also been used in vehicle rear-view mirrors to reduce the glare at night. Neodymium salts are used as colorants in enamel in much the same way as the oxides are used to color glass.