Chemistry

An Overview about the Chemical Element Neodymium



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In 1885 Austrian chemist Carl Auer (Baron von Welsbach) discovered neodymium in the mineral didymia which was extracted from ceria which was found in Sweden in 1803. After nearly a century of work with ceria several new elemnets were found along with nedymium. What follows is an overview of the histroy, properties and uses of neodymium.

Neodymium is a rare earth metal and is located in row six on the periodic table of elements. The elements in row six are also referred to as lanthanides which is derived from lanthanum which is also a row six element. Neodymium has an atomic number of sixty and is known by the symbol "Nd" and carries an atomic mass of 144.24.

Cerite was discovered in Sweden in the late 1700's and comprehensively examined by the reknown Swedish chemist Carl Gustav Mosander. Mosander managed to separate cerite into two parts, cerium and lanthanum. In a couple short years he realized he had not actually discovered two new elements as he previously believed but rather another compound which he broke down to lanthanum and didymium. Again Didymium wasn't an element either and was separated to reveal praseodymium and neodymium which means "new twin." Although Auer identified it and it was confirmed by other scientists a pure sample of neodymium was not isolated until 1925.

Physically neodymium is a thin metal which can be worked with very easily as it is highly malleable. It carries a density of 7.o grams per cubic centimeter and a melting point of 1,875 degrees Farenheit (1,024 degrees Celsius) and a boiling point of 5,490 degrees Farenheit (3,030 degrees Celsius). Of all the rare earth elemnts neodymium is one of the most prevalent in the Earth's crust at approximately twelve to twenty four parts per million. It's most common ores are monzanite and basnasite. Chemically speaking nedymium is moderately reactive with oxygen and will acrue a yellowish tarnish. It further reacts with acids and water to emit hydrogen gas.

Nedymium has proved itself valuable in scientific research, especially in regards to predicting how big an eruption will likely be. At the lawrence Berkley Laboratory they discovered large scale volcanic eruptions produced lava with a specific isotope composition which was different from that of smaller eruptions. By studying the lava for neodymium composition they can then hopefully determine the extent of the impending eruption.

Neodymium has seven naturally occuring isotopes which are neodymium-142 through 146, neodymium-148, and neodymium-150. Neodymium-144 is the only one which is radioactive, all the others are stable. Neodymium also has seven non-naturally occuring radioactive isotopes, non of which have uses of any importance. That isn't to say however that neodymium is not a viable commercial element. It is used in the creation of the neodymium yttrium aluminum garnet (Known as the Nd:YAG) laser which is used in treating bronchial cancer as it produces a highly focused single light beam. It is also used in the production of the iron-boron magnet which is commonly used in stereo speakers, lightbulbs, and coloring glass. An interesting note is that two neodymium magnets can be so powerful that when attracted to each other the force of their impact can actually cause them to shatter!

This was a very brief overview of neodymium. As you can see it is a highly significant element as demonstrated by it's application in mayn items we use every day and may even serve to save lives due to it's unique properties.

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