How reactive is lanthanum

Rare earth

The "rare earths" are a series of 17 chemical elements, which are metals. The term "rare earths" comes from the fact that they were first found in rare minerals. However, rare earths are not really rare. Their concentration is only very low in the binding minerals. Among other things, this leads to the fact that the promotion is very complex, expensive and the extraction is environmentally harmful.

Rare earths are only extracted in connection with other mineral resources. However, since the highest purity of the extracted material must be guaranteed for its use, the extraction requires know-how, high capital investment and appropriate equipment. To make matters worse, rare earths usually occur in connection with radioactive minerals such as thorium or uranium. Therefore, the extraction is also more expensive because of the environmental requirements.

Rare earths are indispensable for high-tech products such as cell phones, laptops, flat screens, fuel cells, motors for electric cars and in laser technology. The very special properties of these highly reactive metals are only made possible by the small, light, highly efficient devices. Without rare earths and other special metals, technology today would be the same as it was in the 1990s. Rare earths are at least as important to the economy as oil and ores.

Which chemical elements belong to the rare earths?

  • Scandium (SC, 21)
  • Yttrium (Y, 39)
  • Lanthanum (La, 57)
  • Cerium (Ce, 58)
  • Praseodymium (Pr, 59)
  • Neodymium (Nd, 60)
  • Promethium (Pm, 61)
  • Samarium (Sm, 62)
  • Europium (Eu, 63)
  • Gadolinium (Gd, 64)
  • Terbium (Tb, 65)
  • Dysprosium (Dy, 66)
  • Holmium (Ho, 67)
  • Erbium (Er, 68)
  • Thulium (Tm, 69)
  • Ytterbium (Yb, 70)
  • Lutetium (Lu, 71)

Collect electronic scrap and recover rare earths (recycling)

Increased efforts are already being made in recycling. Unfortunately, the rare raw materials are only found in small quantities in the waste products. The recovery of rare earths is considered extremely difficult and therefore expensive. Still too expensive. But the time will come when recycling will make sense not for environmental reasons but for economic reasons.
If the recycling of rare earths succeeds, it could happen that landfills are reopened to get the electronic scrap out of there.
Under the heading of urban mining, cities are seen as the mines of the future. In the event of demolition, renovation or modernization, recyclable materials are to be used in a more targeted manner and incorporated into recycling concepts.

To make recycling easier, certain products are already being developed so that rare metals can easily be recovered. The products undergo a recycling test, during which they can be easily dismantled. For example, 500 grams of neodymium is used for the electric drive of the BMW X6. When the car is ready for the scrap press, the expensive metal can be reclaimed.

Replace rare earths

Because recovery is difficult and in the wake of the scarcity of raw materials and the associated rising costs, research is being carried out into alternatives to rare earths.
Magnets are developed based on samarium and cobalt instead of neodymium and dysprosium. Samarium is also a rare earth. When it comes to delivery, however, you don't just depend on China.

Rare earths as an investment?

Since the demand for rare earths is likely to increase in the future, prices are already expected to rise sharply. Many speculators therefore consider rare earths as an investment. But rare earths are less suitable as an investment.
Rare earths are mostly in oxide form. They are therefore volatile and are therefore not suitable for long-term storage. They are usually transported in powder form, whereby the highest purity is required. Privately stored rare earths are therefore not of interest to industry. Rare earths packed in plastic bags or cups are worthless. A material analysis would first have to be carried out here, which is expensive and time-consuming. This is why the industry usually purchases rare earths directly from the source. Only here is purity guaranteed.
But there are also some rare or strategic metals that are processed in the industry in the form of bars or granules. These are better suited for storage and as an investment. For example as an alternative to gold and silver.

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