Lanthanum (La), a rare earth element, is used in catalysts used to break down petroleum into products such as gasoline. The process called fluid catalytic cracking (FCC).


Rare earth compounds are being looked at for their color and transparency properties in the field of ceramics. Ceramics Today reports preliminary success in creating glazes for earthenware and stoneware and in other media.

Filtration Systems

Rare earths compounds are used in porcelain sand filters for entrapment systems across a range of industries. Better at resisting corrosion than their predecessors, rare earth filters are of interest to chemical and petroleum applications. The compounds are also used in some drinking water filtration systems.

Glass Polishing Agents

Glass polishing agents rely on rare earth oxides, often cerium and cerium oxides. Developed as polishing agents just before World War II, for such items as periscopes and range finders, these compounds are used to remove scratches from eye glasses. In addition, rare earth elements are used to add antireflective properties to camera lenses. Lanthanum oxide is used to manufacture telephoto lenses.

Hybrid Vehicles

Rare Earth technologies are fundamental to Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV), Plug-in HEVs (PHEV), and all-Electric Vehicles (EV). Similar rare earth compounds are even used in standard gasoline and diesel vehicles. Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnets are utilized in electric motor and regenerative braking systems. Other auto components and systems rely on rare earth materials as well.


Europium is used in white LED lights, which could someday be an energy efficient replacement for both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. White light is produced by mixing various colored LEDs. According to Popular Mechanics, red from europium (which was also used in original color TV sets) is an ingredient needed to create a high-quality shade of white.

Maglev Technology

Rare earth magnets are part of Maglev (magnetic levitation) train technology, in operational use in Japan, Europe, and Shanghai. These trains accomplish staggering speeds. Japan holds the record for the highest speed, set in 2003, at 581 kph (361 mph). During a test run of the German-built system in China, a velocity of 501 kph (311 mph) was recorded.


Phosphors are used to make red, blue, and green in a fluorescent light. Together, they make the light appear white. LEDs also require phosphors, which rely on rare earth materials. Phosphors are used in a variety of other technologies, including for radar screens and ceramics.

Rare Earth Magnets

Developed in the 1960s, rare earth magnets are some of the strongest magnets known, so strong in fact, that they are capable of producing injury to humans if used improperly. Known as permanent magnets because they can be magnetized, like iron, they are composed of rare earth minerals, which would otherwise be magnetic only at low temperatures. Under the proper setting, rare earth elements, iron, nickel, cobalt, combine to form magnetic alloys. These are the basis for rare earth magnets, which are used in electronic gadgets, like portable music players.

Recycling Technologies

According to industry experts, every megawatt of wind power requires about half a ton of permanent magnets. Due to growth in wind power as well as with other green technologies, supply is under pressure. However, there is an the intriguing possibility. What if rare earth elements are remade, addressing supply issues while minimizing the environmental impact of extraction?


Superconducting magnets, some of which require rare earth elements, are powerful electromagnets. Superconductors are used in MRI machines, mass spectrometers, and particle accelerators. They can also be used for magnetic separation of compounds, a method utilized in countless pigment applications, from cosmetics to visual arts to food coloring.


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