Rare Earth Elements (REE)

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Kasse med kjerneprøver.
Kjerneprøver som inneholder sjeldne jordarter. Prøvene er hentet opp fra Fensfeltet i Nome kommune. Foto: NGU

Rare Earth Elements (REE) are necessary raw materials for a wide range of products. The most important use today is in magnets for electric motors and dynamos. In Norway, there are large resources of rare earth elements, including in the Fens Complex in Nome municipality.

What are Rare earth elements used for?

Rare earth elements have a variety of different uses. The most important uses are:

  • Magnets
  • Alloys
  • Catalysts
  • Polishing agents
  • Pigments
  • Ceramic materials
  • Medical tracers

Currently, the most important application of rare earth elements is in magnets for electric motors and dynamos. Using rare earth elements makes the magnets stronger and allows them to retain their magnetism even when heated.

The production of rare earth elements presents challenges due to their occurrence in mixed forms, their chemical similarities, and the necessity for intricate extraction and purification processes.

Rare earth elements are divided into light and heavy varieties depending on what they are used for. The heavy ones also have a higher atomic weight than the light ones.

Applications of Light Rare Earth Elements (LREE):

  • Yttrium and Scandium: alloys, ceramics, and fuel cells
  • Lanthanum: Used in glass and optical fibers.
  • Cerium: Used in self-cleaning ovens, glass polishing, and catalysts.
  • Praseodymium: Used for coloring glass, protective goggles, and ceramics.
  • Neodymium: Used as an alloying agent for magnets.
  • Promethium:
  • Samarium: Crucial for magnets.
  • Europium: Essential for color TV production.
  • Gadolinium: Utilized as a medical contrast agent.

Applications of Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE):

  • Terbium is used in speakers.
  • Dysprosium is used in alloys for magnets.
  • Holmium is used in lasers, magnets, and nuclear applications.
  • Erbium is used in glass and optical fibers.
  • Thulium is among the rare earth elements.
  • Ytterbium is used in specialized iron alloys and specialized lasers.
  • Lutetium is used in special nuclear applications and for magnets.

Where are rare earth elements found in Norway?

In Norway, there are large resources of rare earth elements, among others at the Fens Complex in Ulefoss in Nome municipality.