Rare Earth Elements

Rare Earth Elements

Recently, scientists have said in a study that in the near future, tensions may increase between China and America regarding Rare Earth Element (REE).

Key Points

  • According to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, China may try to reduce the export of these elements.
  • The expected increase in demand for clean energy minerals has put more pressure on Europe as well as the US.

US and EU dependence on China

According to a report by the US Geological Survey, in the year 2019, the US imported nearly 80 percent of the rare earth minerals from China. In addition, the European Union also imports 98 percent of its supply of rare earth elements from China.

Rare Earth Element

  • Rare earth elements are a group of 17 rare metallic elements found in the Earth’s crust. These include the 15 lanthanides of the periodic table and scandium and yttrium.
  • The following are the major 15 rare earth elements – Lanthanum (La), Cerium (Ce), Prasodium (Pr), Neodymium (Nd), Promethium (Pm), Samarium (Sm), Europium (Eu), Gadolinium (Gd), Terbium ( Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and lutetium (Lu).


  • They are used to make electrical equipment such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, fighter aircraft and weapon systems.
  • Due to their unique magnetic, luminescent and electro-chemical properties, they are used in the production of products such as smartphones, electric cars, camera lenses, X-ray scanners, wind turbines and computer hard drives.
  • Rare earth elements are essential raw materials for a wide range of applications, such as- Catalyst in metallurgy (metal refining and alloying), automotive and petrochemical industries, glass/ceramics, phosphorus (LED), compact fluorescent lamps, flat panel displays, ultraviolet rays, rechargeable solid state batteries (Ni- MH), fiber optics etc.

Source – The Hindu

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