Application of Rare Earth Metals
REEs are found in important resources such as electronics, environmental, optical, magnetic, and catalytic technologies. More use of REEs than platinum group metals in industry has increased the demands in recent years. It is thought that today’s world is almost impossible to sustain without RE metals. For instance, the Toyota Prius hybrid car is one of the cars using REE in the manufacturing industry. In this context, the Toyota Prius model is reported to contain approximately 10 kilograms of lanthanum element in its battery. It should be noted that the neodymium element is used to produce magnets for hybrid motors. In addition, Terbium and dysprosium elements are added to hybrid cars to preserve the magnetic properties of neodymium at relatively higher temperatures. In this context, magnetic elements such as neodymium, terbium and dysprosium are the main components of applications related to wind turbine and computer hard disk. Cerium and lanthanum elements are mostly applied in catalytic converters. The Europium element is a necessary component in compact fluorescent lamps, televisions, and iPhone displays.
|Yb||70||Stress gauges to monitor ground deformations caused by earthquakes or under-ground explosions, catalyst, fiber laser amplifiers|
|Lu||71||Catalyst, detectors in positron emission tomography (PET)|
|Y||39||Microwave filter, provide the red color in color television tubes, high-temperature super-conductor YBCO|
|Sc||21||Aerospace industry components and for sports equipment such as bicycle frames, fishing rods, golf iron shafts and baseball bats.|
Rare Earth Ores Processing Steps
The processing of REEs, as can be seen in Figure, consists of six major steps that include ore deposit exploration, mining, beneficiation, chemical treatment, physical separation, and purification step. Pure REEs are found in complex rocks and can be recovered through the enrichment process. Chemical treatment can be used to filter the REE concentration. Finally, the individual element can be extracted by hydrometallurgical method and is generally sold to consumers either as pure element or as metal oxides.