Neodymium production for commercial purposes, takes place in connection with mining for lanthanide minerals. Though classified as a rare earth element, neodymium does not occur in natural metal form. It is a chemical element present in large amounts in lanthanide mineral ores like monazite and bastnäsite. Actually, all lanthanide minerals contain neodymium, which makes this element fairly common and widely available for general use.
Aside from China, neodymium is also produced or oxidized from lanthanide minerals excavated in Australia, Brazil, India,Sri Lanka and the U.S.A. The world is estimated to have 8 million tonnes of neodymium in reserves to meet worldwide production of neodymium oxide estimated at 7.000 tonnes a year.
In 1885, Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach discovered that when hard, silvery lanthanide metal tarnishes due to moisture and air, the oxidation process produces a chemical element that reacts quickly, which yielded yellow, pink, blue/purple compounds That element was called neodymium and given the chemical symbol Nd with atomic number 60. Initially, the oxidized neodymium was used as glass dyes. In later years, different industries found neodymium useful as components of magnets.
Popular Uses of Neodymium Magnets
One of the most important uses of neodymium is as component of alloys used for making powerful permanent magnets, aptly distinguished as neodymium magnets. This is the type of magnet used in the production of earphones, microphones, computer hard disks, professional loudspeakers, and high performance direct current (DC) electric motors used by hobbyists.
When produced in larger forms that have strong magnetic fields, they become essential components of electric motors used for hybrid cars and electric generators including those used in aircrafts and wind turbines.
Recently, there has been growing interest in learning more about neodymium magnets in connection with the rising popularity of a hobby known as magnet fishing. Actually, magnet fishing as a hobby, started about 10 years ago in Europe, which in recent years became a trend in the U.S.
What is Magnet Fishing
It is widely believed that magnet fishing originally started when boaters used magnets to retrieve metallic objects like keys, which they accidentally dropped in shallow bodies of water. However, it came to be that in doing so, some also fished out other metallic debris that later turned out to be rare and valuable items.
Since European countries have seen many historic battles, boaters discovered that there were valuable artefacts, like coins, vintage guns, bombs, hand grenades and the like, lying in the bottom of the lakes, rivers, ponds and streams
Magnet fishing later on caught on as supplementary activity to their fishing hobby, until it became important to take boat trips to historic water areas if looking to retrieve something interesting or valuable. Otherwise, ordinary magnet fishing finds could be some piece of metal junk like tire rims, bicycle or motorcycle parts. Nonetheless, enterprising individuals developed retrieval tools using high-powered, single or double-sided neodymium magnets to further magnet fishing as a hobby.