Used in numerous applications such as computer hard drives, data processing, sound amplification and loudspeakers. They also are important in metal handling and sorting, electric motor manufacturing and many other industries.
Neodymium imports from China account for about 85% of the US’s rare earth magnet production, and the US Commerce Department is investigating the impact of this heavy import dependence on national security.
Neodymium and other rare earth magnets play a significant role in the military. These components are found in everything from missile guidance systems to electronic countermeasures equipment.
Besides, these magnets are also used in other applications like laser range finders and communications. Europium is used in red phosphors that are employed in color cathode-ray tubes and liquid-crystal displays, such as computer monitors.
Samarium cobalt is a key magnet material for defense applications, especially in radar magnetron tubes (used in ground-based systems for air traffic control and surveillance, search radar, and weapon fire-control radar). These materials have high coercivity-which means that they do not lose magnetic strength at high temperatures.
The United States military is relying heavily on neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt rare earth magnets from China. This reliance could become a national security threat, according to the administration.
Neodymium is used in a variety of defense applications, including missile guidance systems, electronic countermeasures and radar systems. It also powers electric motors used in jet fighter engines and other aircraft components.
These motors are crucial for precision-guided munitions, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Without rare earth magnets, these laser-based weapons would be ineffective.
In a bid to reduce its reliance on China for rare earth elements, the U.S. is launching a stockpiling program.
The stockpiling program will cover neodymium, iron boron and samarium-cobalt magnets needed for munitions. The Department of Defense should also fund a domestic stockpiling program covering other critical elements necessary for the production of magnetic defense products, including niobium, lanthanum, dysprosium and europium.
The domestic production of these materials could help break the current US reliance on China for rare earths, if the country can overcome systemic permitting and infrastructure challenges that have been limiting its extraction and processing efforts. But this will take time.
Neodymium, samarium cobalt and other rare earth magnets are essential in aviation, radar and navigation systems. Samarium cobalt and neodymium magnets are strong and resilient, and they can be used at high temperatures.
Unlike other magnet materials, these elements do not degrade easily under corrosion or extreme temperature conditions. This makes them ideal for military applications.
The US Air Force uses samarium-cobalt and neodymium for aircraft electrical systems, radar, and navigation equipment. Neodymium and samarium also play a critical role in precision-guided weapons systems, including missiles.
In addition to being essential to military vehicles, neodymium is used in a number of applications that support the global economy. For instance, it is a key component in batteries and magnets used to generate electricity from wind energy.
While these elements are vital to our technology advancements, REEs face a supply crisis that may become even more acute in the future. This shortage is exacerbated by geopolitical risks associated with China controlling most of the world’s rare earth exports, which has increased REE prices dramatically.
Neodymium is used in electronic devices that have to be very strong, like hard drives for computers and electric motors in cordless equipment. These are typically produced using one of two general method categories: bonded magnets (compression, injection or extrusion molding), or sintered magnets (powder metallurgy or PM process).
In the military, high-strength rare earth elements are a key part of guidance and control systems that steer missiles to their targets, such as the laser weapon that Lockheed Martin is developing for the Air Force Research Laboratory to test in a tactical fighter aircraft by 2021. They’re also a critical part of radar and sonar, which help soldiers, sailors and airmen navigate their way safely to their destination.
Another crucial use of rare earths is in wind turbines, which generate electricity without emitting any carbon dioxide emissions. Direct-drive wind turbines rely on high-performance neodymium and dysprosium magnets, which are easier to maintain and make the turbines lighter.
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