Model Question and Answers for APSC | What are “Rare Earth Elements”? What is their significance?
What are “Rare Earth Elements”? What is their significance?
Ans: The rare earth elements are all metals, and the group is often referred to as the "rare earth metals." These metals have many similar properties, and that often causes them to be found together in geologic deposits. They are also referred to as "rare earth oxides" because many of them are typically sold as oxide compounds.
The global demand for rare earth elements has increased significantly in line with their expansion into high-end technology, environment, and economic areas. They are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium that show similar physical and chemical properties to the lanthanides.
Not rare now:
- They are so-called ‘rare earth’ because they were originally isolated in the 18th and 19th centuries as oxides from ‘rare minerals’.
- Further, technologically it was difficult to extract them from their oxides forms until the 20th century. Therefore, the name they got in the 18th century is still stuck with them.
- They occur in many minerals but typically in concentrations too low to be refined in an economical
Significance of Rare Earth Elements (REE):
- They have distinctive electrical, metallurgical, catalytic, nuclear, magnetic and luminescent
- They are strategically very important due to their use of emerging and diverse technologies which cater to the needs of current
- Its usage ranges from daily use e.g., glass polishing mediums, car alternators to high-end technology like lasers, magnets, batteries, fiber-optic telecommunication
- Even futuristic technologies need these For example high-temperature superconductivity, safe storage and transport of hydrogen for a post-hydrocarbon economy
- Due to their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, they help in technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; therefore give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal