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  • Popular Science 丨 "Industrial Vitamins" - Rare Earths!

    News | Date: 2022-06-15 | Read:

"Industrial vitamins" rare earths are used in various fields of the modern industrial system. As an important strategic resource, it is widely used in the military, metallurgical industry, petrochemical, glass ceramics and agriculture. With the development of new technologies and the rise of a new round of industrial revolution, the strategic position of rare earths has become more prominent, which is closely related to the country's economic technology and core competitiveness.

What are rare earth metals?

Rare earths, also known as rare earth metals or rare earth oxides, or lanthanides, are a group of 17 silvery-white soft heavy metals. The 17 rare earth elements are: lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pm), samarium (Sm), bismuthium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), osmium (Lu), scandium (Sc) and yttrium (Y). Scandium and yttrium are not part of the lanthanides, but they exist in the same deposit as lanthanides and have similar chemical properties, but differ in electronics and magnetism, with slightly different applications and uses for each rare earth element.

Global rare earth mineral reserves

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the global rare earth reserves in 2020 are 116 million tons of rare earth oxides (REOs), And China is the world's largest country of rare earth resources, and the production and reserves of rare earth elements rank first, accounting for 44 million tons (REO), accounting for 38% of the world. Brazil, Vietnam and Russia are the second largest countries in rare earth resources after China, with rare earth reserves of 22 million tons, 22 million tons and 12 million tons respectively.

China's rare earth resources annual output of about 140,000 tons, rare earth resources are widely distributed throughout the country, 22 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have found rare earth deposits, and complete varieties, large reserves, the main rare earth minerals are Baiyun Obo rare earth mine, Sichuan Mianning rare earth mine, Shandong Weishan rare earth mine, ion adsorption rare earth ore in seven southern provinces, Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi phosphorus yttrium ore, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Taiwan monazite mine, Guizhou rare earth containing phosphorus sand, scandium ore in the silt sand of the Chongqing section of the Yangtze River, and coastal sand ore on the long coastline.

Popular Science 丨 "Industrial Vitamins" - Rare Earths!(图1)

In the rare earth industry, China's dominance is no accident. In addition to abundant rare earth resources, it is also based on chinese rare earth industrial technology and production efficiency advantages, and maintains the competitiveness of China's rare earth industry.

Application of rare earth elements

Although the name of rare earth is earth, it can be applied "fashion", and it is mostly used in high-tech fields.

Most rare earth elements are used in the production of catalysts and magnets. Rare earth elements are crucial in the production of high-performance magnets, alloys, glass and electronic products, whether it is a high-temperature superconducting material that can produce a magnetic levitation effect, a "permanent magnet" with a magnetic effect for a long time, or even a "magneto strictive alloy" that changes shape in the magnetic field.

Rare earths also have the effect of "turning stones into gold", adding alloys such as steel, iron, magnesium, and aluminum of rare earths, and the performance is greatly optimized, becoming tougher, lighter and more resistant to corrosion.

In addition, rare earths are important basic materials for cutting-edge scientific and technological fields and national defense construction such as new energy, new materials, aerospace, information, biology, and military industry. Aerospace navigation equipment uses rare earth permanent magnets as core materials; Solar arrays, optical observation equipment, sensors, etc., all require rare earth materials. Rare earth alloys are applied to the doors and mouth covers of spacecraft, which greatly reduces the weight of the structure, reduces the volume of aerospace parts, and reduces energy consumption.