Review

Rare earth elements: Mendeleev’s bane, modern marvels

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Science  01 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6426, pp. 489-493
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau7628

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Abstract

The rare earths (REs) are a family of 17 elements that exhibit pronounced chemical similarities as a group, while individually expressing distinctive and varied electronic properties. These atomistic electronic properties are extraordinarily useful and motivate the application of REs in many technologies and devices. From their discovery to the present day, a major challenge faced by chemists has been the separation of RE elements, which has evolved from tedious crystallization to highly engineered solvent extraction schemes. The increasing incorporation and dependence of REs in technology have raised concerns about their sustainability and motivated recent studies for improved separations to achieve a circular RE economy.

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