The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) defines rare earth metals (also rare earth elements) as one of a set of 17 elements in the scientific periodic table, specifically 15 lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium. Contrary to popular belies, rare earth metals, with the exception of radioactive promethium occur in plenty in the earths crust. However, because of their geochemical properties, rare earth metals are dispersed and not found very often.
Rare -earth metals are increasingly becoming a critical strategic resource. These elements can be found in most high-tech gadgets including state of the art military technology. These metals have several industrial uses worldwide especially in electronic and electrical fields such as rechargeable batteries, computer memory, cell phones, DVDs, magnets, car catalytic converters among other uses.
Today, the worldwide demand for all the above mentioned electronic devices has more than just doubled and to fulfill this demand it is essential to have more supply of the rare earth elements. They are also required in abundance in several industries such as petroleum refining, glass polishing, chemical catalysts, metallurgy, catalytic converters, permanent magnet production, television and monitors.
Rare-earth metals are equally important in industries that use phosphors, catalysts and polishing compounds. Such types of catalysts, some polishing compounds, and phosphors are used to make illuminating screens of several devices along with optical quality glass. Air pollution control is also possible with these various catalysts and other phosphors made up of rare earth elements.
The most significant use of these metals is in national defense field and military. Lanthanum metal is an important component of night-vision goggles, most fluorescent material and phosphors are built from Europium, Neodymium element in making guidance systems, laser range finders and in making efficient defense communications systems. Erbium metal is a very important component of amplifiers. Samarium element is mainly used to build stealth equipment and precision guided weapons.