In recent years, rare earth metals have become anything but rare. Not only do they begin appearing in a broad spectrum of consumer and industrial products, several top scientists have started hailing these unique devices as an answer to environmental ills. The reason? Because rare earth metals, or "OREMs," can create a great deal of positive impact in several arenas.
Just what are rare earths, you ask? While most people visualize this magnetic metal through its more well-known form - the rare earth metal iron - there are actually several other kinds. For instance, a rare earth metal known as neodymium is the one responsible for creating many of the highly customized magnets used in science experiments today. The neodymium magnet creates a sort of magnetic field that's extremely stable, allowing scientists to control particles and keep them from flowing to dangerous levels.
Other rare earth metals, like samarium cobalt magnets and dysporia spinel, are also used in the manufacturing process for a variety of applications. Dysporia spinel is particularly helpful in creating permanent magnets. Permanent magnets work wonderfully in medical equipment such as x-ray machines and MRIs, allowing health professionals to better diagnose patients. Samarium cobalt magnets (a type of rare earth metal) have been used, in rare cases, to power television sets. The cobalt particles within the rare earth metal emit a high level of radio frequency, which can, in turn, provide a steady stream of electrical energy.
What makes rare earths so special, though, is their inherent strength. Whereas other materials become brittle once they've been exposed to a lot of heat (such as when a coffee pot or microwave oven is placed on them), these earths maintain their strength and integrity. This strength also makes them resistant to corrosion, which is why scientists and industries regularly use them. While the strength and durability of rare earths and other forms of this magnetic metal are a matter of debate, it's safe to say that the bulk of the debate involves the idea that the strength of a magnet is directly related to its size.
Magnets with higher strengths will produce a higher amount of electrical current. While this may not seem very important to you at first glance, bear in mind that electricity works on a fairly large scale. A single AA battery, for instance, will only be able to power so many devices, depending on their size. A much larger array, containing thousands of AA batteries, will require more energy in order to function properly.
It's possible, then, to power all of your electronic equipment with one type of rare earth magnet, which is known as neodymium iron boron or NEM. Although this material is quite rare (a metal only found in very few unique minerals), it has recently been made available through technology that uses extreme heat to fuse rare earths together. With this new technology, engineers have been able to create much larger arrays of these specialized magnets, which are now being used in residential homes all over the country.
While this process of fusing rare earths hasn't yet been perfected, engineers have developed ways to make the magnets stronger and less brittle through the use of techniques such as ionization and radiation treatment. By exposing metal electrodes to ions or high levels of radiation, engineers have been able to increase the strength of their magnets without increasing their size. Because of this, they are now able to utilize these strong, less brittle magnets for a variety of applications. Many medical implants are currently being powered by magnets, for example, as doctors attempt to create stronger and safer methods of inserting medicine into the body. Stronger magnets hold the magnets close to the body so that they are less likely to lose their strength, which means that more of the drug is absorbed and stays in the body longer.
Another strong and less brittle type of magnet that you may be interested in is a samarium cobalt magnet. This type of rare earth magnet is so strong and durable that it can actually be damaged by a professional jeweler! Because the cobalt magnet is so sturdy, it doesn't bend or break easily, which allows it to be crafted into earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and many other types of jewelry. Because it's non-corrosive and strong, this type of magnet is highly desirable and is especially good for those working in electronics and the healthcare industry.