Neodymium - overview

Neodymium is a soft, silver colored metal that was first discovered in 1885. [1] It is one of the lanthanide group of elements - also known (with the addition of scandium and yttrium) as rare earth elements. [2]

The rare earth elements occur together in nature and exhibit many similar properties. The other rare earth elements are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, promethium, samarium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, europium, lutetium, gadolinium and yttrium.

Neodymium Resources and Production

Neodymium is more abundant than gold in the earth's crust and is therefore not all that rare. It occurs mainly in the minerals monazite and bastnasite and global production is around 7,000 tonnes per year. [3]

Most of the world's rare earths are currently mined in China, with production also happening in India, Brazil and Malaysia. Large undiscovered reserves are believed to exist in many places around the world - however concentrations are often low and not always economically viable to extract. [3]

Neodymium Uses

Neodymium's most celebrated and significant use is in magnets. Neodymium-iron magnets are the strongest magnets currently available. They are used in a very wide variety of applications such as microphones, loudspeakers, guitar pick-ups, disk drives, electric motors and any other application in which strong magnets are required. [1] In particular the green technology sector is emerging as a strong user of Neodymium - with growing use in hybrid cars, wind turbines and electric bicycles. Electric bicycles outnumber cars four to one in china - there are 100 million of them on the road and this demand has almost entirely come about within the last 10 years. [5]

Neodymium is used in glassmaking. It is used to color glass shades of red and violet and neodymium glass has applications in infrared radiation filtering and astronomy. It is also added to dark lenses used by welders, and used in photographic color filters. Neodymium glass is also used in some incandescent lightbulbs for its "natural" color and automobile rear-view mirrors for glare reduction. [1]

Neodymium glass is used in high power solid state lasers for "inertial confinement" nuclear fusion technology. [1]

Neodymium, like other rare earth elements, exhibits unique properties which mean that substitutes may well be of inferior quality. Although there are, theoretically, abundant supplies, the cost of extraction is often high. Additionally, environmental regulations have added challenges in some countries. The USA was ostensibly self-sufficient in rare earth elements prior to 1990, however cheaper labour, combined with fewer environmental restrictions, has contributed to China's meteoric rise to dominance in this area. The USA is currently dependent on China for rare earth elements - and these have become increasingly important in recent years. [4] There is current controversy over environmental damage caused by rare earth element mining, which is paradoxical as green technology is one of the greatest consumers. [6]

The rare earth element market has experienced enormous growth in the last few years and these trends are set to continue. Neodymium magnets are, essentially, the "driver" for demand for the rare earth elements - because they occur together, so if one is required, they are all mined. Neodymium magnets are the fastest growing sector of the rare earth elements and growth is currently at 16% per year. [5]

The playing field for rare earth elements is complex and involves political, environmental and technological issues

Neodymium Facts

Atomic Number60
Melting point (Celsius)1024ÂșC
Density7.01 g/cc
Hardness (Brinell)265 MPa
Resistivity (nanoOhms / meter at 20ÂșCelsius)643

Neodymium References:


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