What do refrigerator magnets, ear buds and counterfeit currency have in common? This week's element is neodymium, the "twin" of praseodymium, which we first learned about last week. Neodymium has the symbol Nd and the atomic number 60. Like most metals, neodymium is a lustrous silvery white colour, and like its twin, it tarnishes rapidly in air so it must be stored under argon (as above) or oil. Like the other lanthanoids, it is a rare earth metal that is anything but rare. In fact, neodymium is exceedingly common -- almost as common as copper -- being the second most common of the rare earth elements in the Earth's crust, following cerium. Of course, this led me to wonder how this group of fifteen elements came to be known as "rare earth metals" when we know that most of them are not at all rare (although there are a...
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