Relative Atomic Mass
Although classed as a rare earth/lanthanide, interestingly Neodymium (Nd) is no rarer than cobalt, nickel or copper.
Neodymium is further distinguished as being part of the light rare earth group (LREE) – though it is something of an anomaly here due to its popular applications. Usually LREEs are characterized as being more common and less valuable than heavy rare earths (HREE) – however, due to Neodymium’s use (primarily) in Permanent Magnets (NdFeB), it is more valuable than its cohort of LREEs (Ce, La, Pr, Sm).
As stated, Neodymium’s primary use is in Permanent Magnets, which were made commercial in 1983. This application alone accounts for around 70% of Neodymium’s consumption. Permanent magnets have become so popular due to their strength and use in wind turbine generators, drive motors and Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles – all very fashionable ‘green’/renewable energy technologies. The strength of these magnets means they are also used in a variety of our luxury electronics, such as hard-disk-drives (HDDs) in computers, mobile phones, microphones, audio-speakers, headphones – applications where high strength, power and yet compactness are vital properties for their commercial viability.
Other applications of Neodymium are as follows: Nd is added to Magnesium alloys for improved strength, in various glass applications Neodymium oxides create purple and sky-blue in glass and ceramics, and when doped in glass it is used in certain lasers, as well as being used in glass for protective eyewear for welding, laser therapy and sun-beds. In car manufacture, Nd is used in ABS, anti-glare lights, mirrors, electric windows and door-locking systems. Within the medical industry, large Neodymium magnets are used in certain MRI machines.