Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. It is a soft silvery metal that tarnishes in air.
Like most metals, neodymium is a lustrous silvery white colour, and like its twin praseodymium,, 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.
Neodymium compounds were first commercially used as glass dyes in 1927, and they remain a popular additive in glasses. The color of neodymium compounds—due to the Nd3+ ion—is often a reddish-purple but it changes with the type of lighting, due to fluorescent effects.
Its compounds have a variety of lovely colours — pink, mauve, purple, violet, green — that change based on the sort of lighting they are exposed to. For example, neodymium chloride hexahydrate, NdCl3·6H2O [see image courtesy of Walkerma (public domain)], is pink when exposed to sunlight (top) and a boring yellowish colour when exposed to fluorescent light (bottom).
Another chief use of neodymium is as the free pure element. It is used as a component in the alloys used to make high-strength neodymium magnets – powerful permanent magnets. These magnets are widely used in such products as microphones, professional loudspeakers, in-ear headphones, and computer hard disks, where low magnet mass or volume, or strong magnetic fields are required. Larger neodymium magnets are used in high power versus weight electric motors (for example in hybrid cars) and generators.
Neodymium magnets are often referred to as “supermagnets”. And they are for a reason: a one gram neodymium supermagnet can hold up a 1.3 kg (2.8 lb) iron sphere!
Neodymium metal dust is a combustion and explosion hazard. Neodymium compounds, as with all rare earth metals, are of low to moderate toxicity; however its toxicity has not been thoroughly investigated. Neodymium dust and salts are very irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes, and moderately irritating to skin. Breathing the dust can cause lung embolisms, and accumulated exposure damages the liver.
Even relatively small neodymium magnets cause all sorts of damages, even those that are just a few centimetres square. They are dangerous to people with pacemakers. Bone fractures from flying magnets and crushing the tip off a finger are not uncommon.
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Neodymium Magnet experiments
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